Let’s be honest with ourselves…is this truly a hot take? Maybe so, but it shouldn’t give you any third degree burns after reading the rationale below. Claiming that any general manager is the best in the league should be considered at least a mild take due to the sheer amount of quality GMs to choose from. So let’s break this down.
Bob Myers (GSW)
Sean Marks (BKN)
David Griffin (NOP)
Sam Henkie (OKC)
R.C. Burford (SAS)
Masai Ujiri (TOR)
Danny Ainge (BOS)
Daryl Morey (HOU)
Jerry West (LAC)
It seems like so long ago when the Nets made the grave mistake of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce via trade. Watching Brooklyn flame out early in the playoffs the following seasons only added to the increasing amount of dread centered around the organization’s direction. Stuck with aging stars past their primes and essentially no valuable draft picks, the Nets had a one-way ticket to rock bottom.
Fast forward to February 2016. The inevitable collision with annual disappointment was in full swing as the Nets had lost 40 of their first 54 games. The beauty of life is that some of its greatest blessings come unexpectedly; and for Brooklyn, that proved to be the case. In the middle of the month, Sean Marks became the organization’s general manager. The goal for Marks was to not only reverse the direction, but change the cultural identity as well. A couple months later, he made the decision to bring in Kenny Atkinson as head coach and the new era officially set sail.
The following season was more of the same as the Nets stumbled to a 20-62 record with a roster filled with uncertainty and no centerpieces. However, Marks was actively working; he traded Bojan Bogdanovic for a 2017 first round pick, which ultimately turned into budding center Jarrett Allen out of Texas. A little while after, he acquired future picks in a package that sent Justin Hamilton to Toronto; the future prospects turned out to be evolving role players in Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs.
But any GM can get lucky with trades, especially when it involves draft successes, right? Of course. However, it’s the vision that puts Marks over the top. It all started with a huge gamble; Marks sent off franchise centerpiece Brook Lopez and a first-rounder for D’Angelo Russell, who had seemingly found himself inside of a social purgatory in LA. With Lonzo Ball primed to be lead guard of the future, Russell became expendable and Marks pounced.
Let’s move ahead to the 2018-19 season, or better yet, to the end of it. Brooklyn finished with a 42-40 record, solidifying them as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Despite a first round exit at the hands of the 76ers, it was obvious that pendulum was swinging in the right direction. Player development under Marks and Atkinson has been exceptional; Spencer Dinwiddie has increased his scoring averages from 7.3 PPG in Marks’ first season to 16.8 PPG in 2018-19 and Caris LeVert has bursted on to the scene as a solid two-way, double-digit scoring wing who creates matchup problems frequently. As mentioned earlier, Kurucs and Musa are turning into serviceable role players while Allen is solidifying himself as a promising young big man.
And then there’s D’Angelo Russell. The 22 year old made his first all-star appearance after averaging career-highs in points (21.1) and assists (7.0) per game. The former second overall pick put on countless displays of offensive craftiness and prowess.
With a promising young core featuring a healthy LeVert, Brooklyn showed all the signs of being an eventual Eastern Conference stronghold. However, Marks had bigger plans. Since he took over, he has continually attempted to make Brooklyn financially flexible. A plethora of small to medium level moves ultimately cleared enough cap space to sign two maximum contracts, plus more, this summer. Those slots turned opened up the gates to sign the trio of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Jordan; making the Nets one of the main forces to be reckoned with whenever Durant comes back from his injury. Add those three with the young core, minus Russell (Golden State), and Marks’ plans have come full circle.
In a recent development ,Durant raved about Brooklyn’s front office, coaching, and young roster and explained why they were his only preference. Those sentiments only confirm what we’ve seen in the Marks era: hard-nosed toughness, maximum effort, impeccable teammate chemistry, and synchronized dancing.
From the hopelessness that resulted from a failed experiment, to one of the most likeable organizations with a future that keeps getting brighter, Brooklyn has finally entered the new era. At the forefront of it all stands Sean Marks, a former professional basketball player who had a vision to resurrect the Nets. Small cap moves and risky acquisitions turned into solidified culture, exceptional player development, and free agency bombs (courtesy of Woj). The writing is on the wall: Sean Marks is the best GM in the NBA.
PS. No one has better coverage of Brooklyn than OTG; the trio of Nick Fay, Jac Manuell, and Will Jackson never skip a beat, in season or not.
PSS. Be sure to check out the Brooklyn Buzz, a Nets-centered podcast hosted by Nick and Jac. I personally endorse it!