Just before tipoff against the Bulls on Friday night at Barclays Center, Nets general manager Sean Marks stood at center court and presented the four players from the youthful core he has built who will take part in All-Star Weekend: All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell, Rising Stars Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs and three-point shooter Joe Harris.
Which is as good an indication as any why Marks declined to deal any player assets at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline to add help for a playoff push.
Holding a rare news conference before the game, Marks referred to the return of Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe from long-term injuries, saying: “As it pertains to our particular trade deadline, maybe one of the biggest things was getting guys back healthy. That might have been the biggest addition to our group without trying to cause too much disruption to the culture and to the group. Let’s see what we’ve got first and foremost.”
That last comment suggested the remaining 25 regular-season games will be used by Marks to evaluate which assets he might risk and to define the Nets’ needs heading to the free-agent market in July, when they will be able to add talent to the core, possibly without sacrificing much.
“Our young guys, we’re obviously pretty proud of the development Kenny and the staff have done,” Marks said. “We’d like to see that through. We’d like to see how these guys continue to develop. Getting Caris back, and Spencer [Dinwiddie] will be back in whatever time is allowed for his thumb. So when we get everybody back, then we can make a bit of an evaluation of where the team stands.”
Asked if the Nets have specific needs to fill, such as a power forward with three-point shooting skill in their spread offense, Marks declined to say how close they are to top contender status.
“We’ll look at all our positions,” he said. “They took the reins of this thing and they’ve been pushing and believing. It’s been terrific.”
The free-agent landscape changed dramatically before the trade deadline when Kristaps Porzingis was sent to the Mavericks and Tobias Harris was dealt to the 76ers. Both of those stretch fours had been widely identified as potential Nets free-agent targets, but they might never reach free agency if their new teams back up their trade investment with rich long-term contract offers.
Without acknowledging interest in those specific players, Marks said: “That’s the nature of the business. The landscape is always changing, and that’s our job. We’ve got to be able to say, ‘All right, this is the new landscape. How are we going to deal with that?’ We’ve got a very creative young group.”
And a solid core of young players to build on for the future.