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Sixers-Nets Preview: Two Rebuilds on Two Different Tracks

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The Nets are trying to follow their own Process.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

With yesterday’s report that the Sacramento Kings are pursuing Sam Hinkie as a front office executive fresh in my mind, I began thinking back to the circumstances that brought Hinkie to Philadelphia in the first place.

When the Sixers began their rebuilding process™ back in the summer of 2013, they were pretty depleted in terms of assets after the massive failure of the Andrew Bynum trade and the complete miscalculation of the Arnett Moultrie Draft Night deal in 2012, which gave the Miami Heat the team’s lottery-protected first rounder through 2015, at which point it could turn into two second rounders. The Sixers would then be on the hook for sending another lottery-protected first-round pick to the Magic two years after the the pick(s) from the Moultrie trade had been conveyed.

The Sixers had pseudo-All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, reliable forward Thaddeus Young and no clear path towards contention. As is common knowledge now, Hinkie stripped the team down, kept all of its lottery-protected picks as he tried to land the franchise a superstar-level talent and then unceremoniously resigned less than three years later. By keeping the team’s win total low through its lack of quality, veteran players, Hinkie put the team in a position to acquire real talent high in the draft to take the team out of the mire.

The Nets have been in a similar situation in terms of being completely bereft of assets over the last two seasons, but are presented with the more extreme burden of having to relinquish three straight years of top picks (Jaylen Brown as the third pick last year, a top-four pick this summer and then a very likely high pick in 2017) to the Celtics. They will ultimately reap nothing from their three years of misery. What’s a front office to do when it’s not good enough to contend in any capacity and its predecessor tied its hands behinds its back and left it for dead?

This is why I find the Sean Marks-led era of Nets basketball so intriguing. Marks, who the Nets hired last February after a stint as the assistant general manager with the Spurs, has been given this Herculean task. Again, Marks’ arrival mirrors Hinkie’s in Philadelphia in a way: he was an assistant in a progressive, forward-thinking front office from a well-respected franchise.

The Nets’ current roster is akin to aspects of the Sixers’ roster in 2014 and 2015: one-talented player (Jeremy Lin), D-League castoffs (Spencer Dinwiddie, Sean Kilpatrick), a rookie with promise (Caris LeVert) and a K.J. McDaniels (K.J. McDaniels). Marks is looking for diamonds in the rough, hoping to find is own version of Robert Covington, but he unfortunately can’t lose his way to a Joel Embiid-type player until 2019 at the earliest.

Seeing Marks’ plan play itself out over the next few years is a surprisingly compelling subplot in the larger NBA narrative. I can’t recall a time when I franchise was this bad without getting rewarded for it so many consecutive seasons come the time of the NBA draft. If I was a Brooklynite, I would certainly trust Marks’ process. He brings that San Antonio pedigree, it looks like he might have nailed a late-round flier on Caris LeVert and hasn’t tried to sign past-prime veterans in attempt to chase gate receipts that come with a first-round playoff exit as the eighth seed.

The team that takes the floor for Marks’ team tonight against the Sixers will certainly look much different than the roster the Nets will have come Opening Night in October, as it often did for Philly during the Hinkie era. As the Sixers move out of this sludge that is the last month of this season, whose only saving graces tonight will be some fun Dario Saric passes and a monster slam or two from Richaun Holmes, towards acquiring another possible franchise cornerstone this summer, I’ll keep my eyes on how Marks attacks his second offseason in his unique setting.