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Sean Marks Building Plan For Success With Nets

Citing culture and continuity, the Nets’ general manager has the team back on the right track.

Ben Nadeau

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By now, you’re probably well-versed in the Brooklyn Nets’ unfortunate position as a franchise — particularly so if you’re a fan of the Boston Celtics. With a swap in 2017 that is set to bear the highest odds of securing the No. 1 overall pick and an owed selection in 2018 to Boston, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally in sight. However, that won’t make the next two years any easier to manage, which is why general manager Sean Marks has built a road map for success in Brooklyn.

The Nets have an important summer ahead of them, composed of non-guaranteed deals, late first round picks and, of course, the ongoing issue of Brook Lopez. While much of the league is watching potential free agent targets like Andre Roberson and Joe Ingles play large postseason roles, the Nets’ brass is off scouting in Europe. Marks recently stated that this summer would be “exciting” but after the Nets struck out on all three of the restricted free agents they signed to offer sheets in 2016-17 — Allen Crabbe, Tyler Johnson and Donatas Motiejunas — these bridge years have become difficult to navigate.

With that being said, here’s how Marks and his moving pieces could shake out this offseason.

Brook Lopez

Once the Nets were well out of the playoff hunt and Jeremy Lin had returned from his lengthy hamstring issues, the franchise set their sights on some specific goals — including getting Lopez some well-deserved glory. On April 10, Lopez became the Nets’ all-time leading scorer, notching 10,440 points over nine seasons with the franchise. For many, the celebration could have served as a good sending-off point for the center — Lopez riding off into the sunset (and with a better chance at a ring) while the Nets could recoup some of their assets before the trying times ahead.

Win-win, right?

Well, it sure doesn’t sound like Lopez and the Nets are headed toward a breakup anytime soon.

On a podcast with The Vertical’s Chris Mannix this month, Lopez noted that he hopes to retire as a member of the Nets. Furthermore, Lopez wants his legacy to be remembered as somebody that started something special in Brooklyn. Following the season, Marks told NetsDaily’s Bryan Fonseca that their main aim is eventually making the postseason again.

“The objective for us is to be in the playoffs. When that comes, we’ll see,” Marks added, indicating they’ll go after the big free agent after they make the playoffs. “You don’t want to go and sign free agents and then the next thing you know your payroll is capped out and you’re a 25-win team. We’re going to have to build this strategically, have patience with it.”

In that way, on a roster that is otherwise just Lin and young prospects or D-League call-ups, it sure doesn’t sound like the Nets want to sell off their franchise center for a few more selections. If that’s the case — and it may be the most important decision they make all summer — then the attention will swing toward the rest of the roster and the choices they must make there.

The Roster

Of the Nets’ current roster, six of them have non-guaranteed contracts: Sean Kilpatrick, K.J. McDaniels, Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, Archie Goodwin and Quincy Acy. Given their three upcoming draft selections and current international scouting status, it’ll be nearly impossible to bring them all back. Who makes the cut then? In their own right, all six have made compelling arguments to stick around in 2017 and beyond.

Of course, Kilpatrick was the first of many D-League signings for Marks and his microwave shooting makes him a strong candidate to return. Harris was one of the Nets’ go-to three-point shooters (and a willing defender) until a concussion and shoulder injury knocked him out for the final month of the season. Dinwiddie, who the Nets’ front office chose over Yogi Ferrell, came into his own in March and April, even partially delivering the knockout blow to the Detroit Pistons’ playoff hopes, the team that traded him last June.

Marks picked up McDaniels for next-to-nothing at the trade deadline and his lengthy perimeter defense was a welcomed addition in his 20 appearances. Acy, who was a D-League signing in January, shot his socks off from three-point range for Brooklyn (43.4 percent through 32 games). Finally, there’s Goodwin; a young, athletic playmaker that must improve from behind the arc, but the front office loves his explosive scoring and ability to get the rim.

Before entering free agency or the draft, the Nets must determine the direction in which they’re looking to take this roster. Luckily for Marks, there’s plenty of flexibility. With Lopez and Lin under guaranteed deals alongside Trevor Booker, Andrew Nicholson, Justin Hamilton, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead, the early leaders to return are Dinwiddie, Acy and Kilpatrick.

The International Landscape

Given Marks’ experience with the San Antonio Spurs’ organization, it should come as no surprise that the Nets are heavily scouting European players this spring. While they’ve been reportedly watching Facundo Campazzo and Shayne Whittington among others, the crown jewel would certainly be their chase of Milos Teodosic, the 30-year-old Serbian maestro at point guard. For years, NBA front offices and scouts have waited for Teodosic to make the jump, frequently receiving votes as one of the world’s best basketball players not currently playing in America.

Teodosic is a former EuroLeague MVP, FIBA Europe Player of the Year and a three-time member of the All-EuroLeague First Team. Currently with CSKA Moscow, Teodosic is averaging 16.3 points, 7.2 assists and 2.7 three-pointers per game. For a team that struggled massively without Lin on the floor in 2016-17, there may be no better bridge for Marks than Teodosic. Hailed as Europe’s best passer, Teodosic even fared well against the United States during the 2016 Rio Olympics, scoring 18 points and tallying six assists during their pool play matchup.

Teodosic did admit that the NBA must meet his financial and competitive standards before he moves overseas, but with the Nets in desperate need of a league-ready point guard and the money to spend, there’s much to like about this developing situation.

Other scouted names include the draft-eligible Mathias Lessort and Anzejs Pasecniks, so the Nets’ new regime is truly leaving no stone unturned in their never-ending search for talent.

The Draft

While the Nets don’t have any premier picks in the upcoming draft, they do hold selections 22, 27 and 57, which should give Marks a bevy of possibilities throughout the next few months. Marks hasn’t ruled out selecting an overseas stash with one of their picks given their massively in-flux roster, but they’ll need to nail their picks either way.

The Nets will certainly lament missing out on Markelle Fultz and company in June, but without a first round pick in 2018, they’ll need to choose wisely. Understandably, the Nets will likely look toward the front court in this draft at some point. Hampered by Nicholson’s long-term contract, Lopez’s free agency in 2018 and Hamilton’s rocky first season with the franchise, the Nets would do well to snag somebody like Duke’s Harry Giles or Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo should they slide that far.

Additionally, Marks has recently mentioned the need to address the small forward position this summer with Hollis-Jefferson seemingly settled into his small-ball role at the four spot. Other names that should intrigue the Nets are Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Latvia’s Rodions Kurucs.

While their upcoming picks may not bear fruit in 2017-18, the Nets have their eye on the future so a European stash or raw project could fit the bill in June’s draft. Frankly, the Nets have a need at every position currently, so Marks can again be flexible with his selections.

Free Agency

For most franchises, free agency is where teams make themselves contenders, just as the Nets attempted to do last summer. However, this time, it seems as if free agency is the one area in which the Nets may go a little light on in July. With their lack of long-term assets and draft picks, Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson have preached culture and continuity above all else. This points at the Nets keeping around a large chunk of their roster from last season, for better or for worse.

With the non-guaranteed contracts, their overseas scouting and three more draft picks, there may not be much room to chase another round of restricted free agents. While there’s certainly no harm in reaching out to Otto Porter Jr., Kantavious Caldwell-Pope or the aforementioned Roberson for their desired contract range, many free agents will likely price themselves out of the Nets’ plans this summer.

The franchise-wide eye is focused on unearthing and developing their own talent instead of making the expensive mistakes of regimes in past years. That may disappoint some that wish for the Nets to pursue the likes of Blake Griffin or Paul Millsap, but as their cross-town rival Knicks found out the hard way this season, there’s no shortcut to success.

At the end of the day, there’s a fair chance the 2017-18 Nets roster won’t look all that different from how it stands now. The team is a few years away from competing again in the Eastern Conference, so Marks has his building blocks in all the right places so far. Unless they look to move up in the draft or trade one of their valuable pieces like the gritty fan-favorite Booker, the Nets will settle for normalcy — something the franchise hasn’t had in years.

With Lopez looking more and more likely to remain with the team and roster spots somewhat limited, Marks has a plan in place to bridge these final two summers without their own draft picks. It certainly differs from the Philadelphia 76ers’ “Trust The Process” mantra by way of waiting for their high-selection prospects to get healthy, but the Nets have created their own long-term road map for success. We’ll just have to wait a little longer before it’s fully revealed.

Ben Nadeau is a Boston-based writer in his second year with Basketball Insiders. For five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.

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NBA

Trae Young Believes He’s NBA Ready

Trae Young has exceeded expectations since his freshman year of college, and he believes he will continue to do so in the NBA

Matt John

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Before the collegiate season started, many believed that the best players in the upcoming NBA draft were going to be bigs. DeAndre Ayton, Mo Bamba, and Michael Porter Jr., all of whom were 6’10’’ or taller, were considered to be among the top prospects coming out of the NCAA, but Trae Young had something to say about that.

Coming out of high school, Young was regarded as one of the better incoming freshmen, but not among the best of the best. Young ranked no. 23 in ESPN’s top 100 in 2017 and was ranked third among point guards, behind Collin Sexton and Jaylen Hands, which led to low expectations for him. Young proved right out of the gate that he was much better than the scouts had rated him.

Young tore up college ball as an Oklahoma Sooner, as he averaged 27.2 points and 8.7 assists while shooting 42 percent from the field including 36 percent from three. While Young’s play made him stand out among his peers, it didn’t translate into much success on the court. The Sooners went 18-14 on the season and were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Now that the season is over, Young is shifting his focus to his next stop: the NBA. With the draft coming up in just a little over a month, only one word comes to mind when describing Young’s current mindset: Confidence.

“I bring a lot of things to the next level. I think I would bring an immediate impact off the court as much as I do on the court,” Young said at the NBA combine. “I can space out the defense. I can attack defenders in multiple ways, get my teammates involved. I think I can pretty much do it all for a team and I’m looking forward to whichever team I go to and making a huge impact.”

While Young is not expected to be picked in the top five, he should be picked between the six to ten range. Any player who is selected in that range has to work his absolute hardest to live up to the lengthy expectations that he will certainly face once he enters the NBA. Young luckily sounds like he is up to the task.

“I prepared extremely hard coming into the college season and making a huge impact right away, and I’m working two times as hard this summer preparing to get into the NBA level,” Young said. “I want to make a huge impact right away.”

Young is expected to be a high lottery pick, but he doesn’t care much for where he is selected as much as he cares about going to the team that suits him best.

“My main focus is going to the right team. It’s not about going one, two, three or 30. You see a lot of guys going in the second round in certain years that make big impacts for teams,” Young said. “It’s all about the fit for me. Whether that’s one or whether that’s whatever it is, I’m going to be happy and I’m going to be ready to make an impact.”

Young’s expected high draft position stems from his electrifying play as a scorer in college. Young’s performance for Oklahoma his freshman year was impressive enough to draw comparisons to NBA megastar Stephen Curry. While Young is flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as Curry, he takes pride in being his own player.

“He’s a two-time MVP and a champion. I mean, I love the comparison but I feel like I bring a lot of different things from different players’ games to the table,” Young said. “I’m just trying to be the best version of Trae Young. That’s all that matters to me. I’m just getting started in this thing so hopefully I can achieve some of those things.”

Young’s skillset may remind fans of Curry, but Young prides himself on modeling his game after his favorite player of all time: Steve Nash.

“With his size and my size, we’re pretty similar,” Young said. “He is very cerebral. He can score on all three levels and he knows how to get his teammates involved. He’s a winner so I feel like a lot of his characteristics match with mine.”

Those who have watched Young know of his offensive repertoire, but skeptics have pointed to his defensive shortcomings as a red flag. Young, however, believes his play at the combine will show that he can be a positive on the other side of the ball.

“I’m excited about having the opportunity to show people that I can play defense, and I’m excited to show that from day one,”

When all is said and done, Young may very well wind up being the most prolific scorer to come out of what many believe is a loaded draft, but Young has much bigger ambitions in mind for his career.

“I think I’m the best overall player in this draft, but my main focus isn’t necessarily to be the best player in this draft,” Young said. “My goal is to be the best player in the NBA. That’s what I’m focusing on each and every day.”

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NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine

Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.

Jesse Blancarte

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UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.

While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.

Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”

Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.

Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.

“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.

I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”

Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.

“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.

Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.

“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.

Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.

Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.

“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18

The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Lots of Draft Movement

With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.

The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.

It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.

Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:

Dates To Know:

The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.

The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.

The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.

The Pick Swaps:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. This pick will convey.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.

The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

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