Nets GM Sean Marks speaks as Jordi Fernández, the Brooklyn...

Nets GM Sean Marks speaks as Jordi Fernández, the Brooklyn Nets' new head coach is introduced during a news conference on April 24, 2024. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Sean Marks was all smiles sitting next to Nets coach Jordi Fernandez Wednesday. But the happy mood belied the importance of what’s before him this offseason.

A 50-loss season revealed critical roster flaws, especially generating enough offense. Marks has hired his fourth coach since taking over as general manger in 2016. There’s optimism over Fernandez’s credentials but also an awareness the last two coaches were gone within two years after their hiring.

“You hope you do it the right way and you do it with the right people and you continue to build,” Marks said Wednesday. “Hopefully with Jordi, this is a long-term fit. He can continue to grow and develop just the same way we all have.”

Marks touted Fernandez’s ability to work with young players and veterans. But there’s reason to wonder if that means the Nets anticipate a slower push to being back as a playoff contender.

While Fernandez promised results “right away,” Marks was less definitive. He referred to how the Nets’ timeline changed from 2016 under then-coach Kenny Atkinson to 2019 when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s arrival as free agents made them championship contenders.

With the current Nets featuring Mikal Bridges, Cam Thomas and Cam Johnson, the path to improvement seems slower based on last season’s results. Ben Simmons’ latest back injury also affected this team’s ceiling as he played just 15 games before surgery in March.

Simmons, who’s entering the last year of his contract, is rehabbing in Florida and expected to be available at the start of next season, Marks said.

As for the overall team picture, Marks wouldn’t say if the team is rebuilding but described the Nets being in a holding pattern of evaluation.

“You never know how guys are going to develop,” Marks said. “You never know how your players are going to take that leap, some take it quicker than others. So, the hope with some of these guys on this roster is that they can take that leap maybe quicker than us. I never want to limit them to that.”

One factor in the Nets’ future is Nic Claxton’s free agency. Marks said that re-signing the center is the team’s No. 1 priority even with Claxton’s price likely starting at $20 million a year.

Fernandez echoed the same plan while praising Claxton’s development on offense and defense.

“Nic is a big that has defensive versatility. I believe he’ll be Defensive Player of the Year,” Fernandez said. “For us, he’s a priority in this summer.”

Another factor is the lack of draft picks. The Nets have none in June’s draft, but Marks didn’t rule out pursuing trades to acquire a pick.

The team has quite enough youth with five players 23 years old or younger. Included in that mix is Dariq Whitehead, who Marks said should be available for summer league in Las Vegas after shin surgery in January.

However, Marks added the Nets are open to finding a way into the draft if there’s someone who catches their eye.

“For us this year, it's gonna be more strategic,” he said. “It’s about like, 'Is the player available at that pick? How do we get in there?' So those conversations will be happening relatively soon and they'll be happening all the way up until on the clock.”

It’s part of the unknown this offseason. The Nets have to improve but there’s not a clear path with 11 players under contract and a desire for financial flexibility for next summer.

That’s the challenge Marks, and now Fernandez, have to figure it. It could decide whether fans have to prepare themselves for another year of struggling or immediate growth.

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