Jahlil Okafor's arrival gives a glimpse into Sean Marks' blueprint for Nets
Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas highlight Sean Marks' approach of acquiring undervalued talent
When Sean Marks arrived in Brooklyn in 2016 as the Nets’ new general manager, many considered his task of rebuilding the team as unenviable.
The former San Antonio Spurs assistant general manager inherited an roster that had limited assets to improve. Hitting the restart button without draft picks appeared almost impossible, but Marks clearly had a plan or he likely wouldn’t have accepted this position.
“We came in knowing what we had and knew the hand we were dealt,” he told NBA.com ahead of this season.
Within the course of just 18 months, the general manager’s blueprint for the Nets is starting to take shape.
Over the last six months, Brooklyn has acquired two of the top three picks from the highly-regarded 2015 NBA Draft as it landed both D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor. While both were once considered can’t-miss prospects, a variety of circumstances opened an opportunity for the Nets and Marks pounced on it.
While the moves for Russell and Okafor have gotten the most attention, Marks has employed the same approach for most of the players that he’s added since his arrival. Find an asset that’s undervalued and put the trust in Kenny Atkinson and his coaching staff to bring the best out of that talent.
It’s a prudent approach to make the team competitive both now and in the future.
“It’s about having patience,” Marks insisted in his press conference after Thursday’s trade was announced. “We’re not trying to get this all back in one fell swoop or anything like that. We’ll see what opportunities arise in the next year, 18 months, three years and so forth.”
It’s the reason why the team traded an established veteran in Thaddeus Young to have an opportunity to draft Caris LeVert in the first round, despite the guard coming off of a significant injury in college. It's why the team took a chance on Spencer Dinwiddie, a second rounder who was previously waived after just two seasons. However, Marks' blueprint doesn't just focus on young talent. It also focuses on fit.
DeMarre Carroll's arrival was initially called a “salary move” by some, but the 31-year-old has quickly asserted himself as a veteran leader on the team. His experience has been a major influence for the team’s young players.
“He’s been huge,” LeVert told BrooklynNets.com. “He tells like it is and he’s real with all of the young guys. He tells us what to expect, so it’s always good to have a vet like that in your corner.”
The Nets have built a culture that emphasizes player development, hard work and a team-first mentality. Adding players with a chip on their shoulder only enhances that and hopefully Okafor and fellow new arrival Nik Stauskas, a lottery draft pick in 2014, will embrace that as well.
“With our group of guys, I think our players will be the ones who lead that charge,” Marks explained. “The goal is to have a player-led culture. Kenny, myself and the coaching staff are trying to facilitate that.”
Make no mistake, the Nets are still a work-in-progress. There is no established All-Star on the team yet and minimal playoff experience outside of Carroll and Timofey Mozgov. This is a team with several key young players still learning about life in the NBA. Still, observers and fans are starting to see a glimpse of what could be a potentially exciting future in Brooklyn.