The Brooklyn Nets are in a better spot than most people think
Despite having the worst record in the NBA, and no ownership of their own draft picks until 2019, the Brooklyn Nets future is still very bright.
The Nets lost all ownership of their picks following their infamous trade with the Boston Celtics that sent future hall-of-famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn.
How did Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov handle this situation? Go for the quick fix, or finally start to build a team the right way?
Brooklyn decided to do the latter, and bring in Sean Marks as their general manager. One thing that the former San Antonio Spurs assistant GM made clear is that he’s not going to go for the quick fix much like former Nets GM Billy King did.
In need of a new head coach, Marks passed up on bigger names such as Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy and proceeded to hire then-Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson.
Atkinson would then become the NINTH head coach of the Nets since 2009, with Brook Lopez being the only Net that has stuck through it all.
The Golden State Warriors revolutionized basketball with their 3-point shooting, so if you want to compete in today’s NBA, you need to have bigs that can knock down 3-pointers in addition to your guards.
Marks noticed that Atkinson was indeed great at developing bigs into threats behind the arc, as Atkinson helped transform former Hawks center Al Horford from a traditional back to the basket center into a big that can hit the 3-pointer. Horford made 88 3-pointers in 2015–16 alone, which is more than four times the amount of 3-pointers he converted in his first eight seasons.
Atkinson is also great at developing relationships, as he successfully recruited Jeremy Lin to sign with the Nets last offseason. Lin openly admits that the “Linsanity” phase would’ve never happened without Atkinson.
The player development success Atkinson brings to the table has already been noticed around the Nets’ organization.
Brook Lopez, who only made 3-of-31 shots from downtown in his first eight seasons in the league, drilled 134 3-pointers this season alone.
Knowing that the Nets would have a hard time building through the draft and signing top tier free agents, Marks set out to find some D-Leaguers and other free agents who needed a chance to prove themselves.
Marks’ very first transaction as the Nets’ GM was the signing of Sean Kilpatrick out of the D-League. Kilpatrick averaged 13.1 points per game on a respectable 41.5 percent shooting from the field this season.
Marks also flipped Thaddeus Young for 2016 draftee Caris LeVert, who can develop into a nice playmaker and 3-point shooter if Atkinson works his magic.
Brooklyn lost 16 straight games at one point this season, but the Nets responded and finished the season winning 11 of their last 24 games to finish at 20–62.
Brooklyn ranked 12th in the league in points per game at 106.2, ranked just ahead of the Spurs. However, they also ranked second to last in points per game allowed at 112.5, so their defense still needs a lot of work.
But if a core of Brook Lopez, 36 games of Jeremy Lin, and Sean Kilpatrick can lead to being 12th in the league in scoring, just imagine what Atkinson and company can do with a better roster.
The Nets will eventually find their franchise changing star, but if Atkinson and Marks continue to find diamonds in the rough while building a culture predicated on patience and teamwork, then the Brooklyn faithful will see winning basketball at the Barclays Center far sooner than most people anticipated.