NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets exceeded expectations this season, increasing their win total by 14 games and making the postseason for the first time in four years.
It seems logical that their success in 2018-19 would help attract free agents this summer. Nets general manager Sean Marks believes that will be the case.
“I think the process that we went through this year — and again, there’s a lot of positives that have come out of this year — can only help,” Marks said at his season-ending press conference with head coach Kenny Atkinson on Thursday.
“Again, it goes back to really establishing an identity and establishing that we’re going to go out there every night and our guys are going to compete. Kenny and the staff have got them playing at a high level, competing, they’re never out of games. It’s going to attract free agents. People are going to want to play here. They’re going to want to play for Kenny. They’re going to want to play in Brooklyn. They’re going to play for this ownership group. And I think we have a lot of things going for us.”
The Nets don’t currently have enough cap space to sign a max free agent, but there are pathways for the club to create enough cap space to do so.
This summer’s free-agent class includes Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard, Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, among others.
Marks, as you’d expect, was non-committal when asked on Thursday about creating enough cap space to sign a max free agent.
“There’s a lot of different directions we can go. I can’t tell you now if we’re going to be signing one or two guys or 10 guys or however it goes,” Marks said.
Part of the Nets’ cap space for the summer — and their free-agency plans in general — hinges on D’Angelo Russell‘s future with the club. Russell, a first-time All-Star this season, is a restricted free agent. It could be challenging for the club to create the cap space to sign a max free agent while keeping its rights to Russell, who averaged 21.1 points and seven assists in 80 regular-season games.
“Our job is to continue to put talent on the roster. He’s obviously one of our more talented players. You said we’ll have decisions. D’Angelo is going to have decisions, too,” Marks said. “That is a little bit of the nature of this business. But at the end of the day, our job is to continue to put talent on the floor for Brooklyn.”
Russell, a first-time free agent, said Wednesday that he would like to remain with the Nets but he understands that much of the process is beyond his control.
Brooklyn has just six players on guaranteed contracts for next season (excluding Allen Crabbe‘s player option) and has its own first-round draft pick for the first time since the 2013 trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
However things play out this summer, Marks and Atkinson both said they are eager to build on the success of the 2018-19 season.
“We’re not satisfied,” Marks said. “We know that this is just sort of that one rung in the ladder that we continue to climb here, and it’s a step in the right direction.”