Let’s rewind real quick to the beginning of the decade. The Brooklyn Nets are fresh off a playoff berth, their first since 2007. They have an unsexy but solid core of Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, and Deron Williams, whose glass ankles were somehow holding up. They had a Marvel superhero as a mascot (shoutout to the BrooklyKnight).
And then they ruined it all. Everyone remembers the infamous KG/Paul Pierce trade that robbed the Nets of their future and cemented Danny Ainge as the greatest swindler this side of Carmen Sandiego. The 2010s were rough for the Nets — no youth, no juice, no hope. All because Billy King and Mikhail Prokhorov wanted a splashy photoshoot. Paul Pierce and KG were both gone by the very next season, followed a year later by Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.
If you said in 2016 the Brooklyn Nets would be where they are today, everybody would have laughed in your face. You’re saying the Nets turned Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, the corpse of Joe Johnson, and some European journeymen into the greatest offensive trio in the history of basketball? And then Blake Griffin!? Stop it. Sean Marks, you mad, mad genius, you deserve a statue on Flatbush for all that you have done. The Nets basically turned into the Lob City Clippers and just replaced CP3 and JJ Redick with Kyrie Irving, KD, and James Harden. Hop on the bandwagon, folks.
Now, the question remains: where do the Nets go from here? What can Sean Marks do to capitalize on his shiny new roster of stars? What should Sean Marks do?
Let us be realistic for a moment. What do the Brooklyn Nets need now? They have a brilliant offensive trio, all of whom are in the smack dab of their primes, possibly the most devastating small-ball lineup, two veteran bigs, and a bouncy energetic heir to Jarrett Allen’s throne. That’s not even counting their role players behind Joey Buckets. TLC is streaky and could always go off, Tyler Johnson and Chris Chiozza are intelligent IQ guys, and Bruce Brown is the living, breathing definition of the phrase “get big!”
Also, let’s take a look at Brooklyn’s actual situation with Blake Griffin on the roster, and why Sean Marks picked him. His athletic prime is long behind him after an injury-plagued five years to end the decade. What, exactly, does he offer? Why did the Nets need Blake Griffin over a more athletic option like JaVale McGee or a brick wall like Andre Drummond, like so many fans have been clamoring for?
To answer that, you have to look at what the Brooklyn Nets are now. Aside from DeAndre Jordan and Nic Claxton, their entire roster is made of capable playmakers. And even in the case of both big men, they each offer dynamic value as legitimate torpedoes with the space offered to them by James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant. The Nets, more than anything else, were looking for more secondary playmakers inside and switchability on both sides of the court.
Enter Blake Griffin. Short of a Nikola Jokic, Domantas Sabonis, Julius Randle, or even Myles Turner, there isn’t really a player of his size who has the capability to be an inside-out playmaker. And none of those four are nearly as cheap as Blake Griffin, who is coming off of an injury-riddled season thus far with the Pistons. And lest we forget, Sean Marks is nothing else if not a bargain hunter. He has an eye for diamonds hidden in the rough, and with the quality of the Nets’ developmental staff, the before and after photos are staggering.
You see a one-dimensional, skinny rim-runner, he sees Jarrett Allen. You see a menially talented and problematic locker room presence, he sees D’Angelo Russell. You see a skinny, injury-prone, relatively unathletic talent who stayed in college a year too long? He sees Caris LeVert. You (and I) see a wildly talented headcase who seems ill-fit to mesh with the current roster? He sees James Harden.
And just as Marks is brilliant at seeing these diamonds in the rough, the Nets are blessed with getting players to buy into their future selves (see: Joe Harris).
And what are the Nets going to do? Trade Spencer Dinwiddie? One of the more popular rumors entering into last week was that the Nets and Pistons were considering a deal for Spencer Dinwiddie. Fast forward to now, and what else would Detroit have to offer them? Who of their decimated roster would Brooklyn have wanted outside of Bruce Brown and Blake Griff-oh wait.
Of course there are concerns going forward. Griffin has been on the outs with the Pistons ever since the season began, he no longer offers the athleticism that made him such an intriguing prospect to start with, his shooting is back to being suspect, and he very well could just be washed.
Oh, how short our memories are. Less than two months ago, the Nets were targeting a trade for a player who looked out of shape, was gaining a reputation for being a ball hog with inflated assist numbers, and was feuding very publicly with his team. Of course, James Harden has been the team’s MVP since he has donned the black and white, and while we would be overstepping to expect the same from Blake Griffin, to distrust Sean Marks’ savvy would be equally foolish.
If the Nets really wanted to, there is no real doubt that Sean Marks could fleece Cleveland for either of their two bigs on the market. If nothing else, it would add needed size to the Nets’ roster and offers an opportunity to dump unnecessary salary. TLC can be maddeningly inconsistent, and Brooklyn does technically have enough primary and secondary playmakers in the rotation to afford to shop Spencer Dinwiddie.
But to pose a question: why would they? Why should they? At best, Javale McGee is an entertaining stop gap at best, and Andre Drummond is a more earthbound, whinier version of Blake Griffin. Not to mention that Brooklyn would be surrendering at least TLC and Dinwiddie, two integral parts of their five-out attack, to add pieces that would slow down both their offense and the development of Nic Claxton (all hail The Alchemist).
The Nets do have their disabled player exception ($5.7 million) from Dinwiddie’s injury and the taxpayer mid-level exception worth about the same available. They’ll surely scour the market for other potential additions, but do they really need them at this point?
Blake Griffin is everything the Nets need and everything they have looked for and found on the road to success: cheap, talented, intelligent, and most of all, hungry.
Let the Brooklyn Nets show him how redemption tastes.