This is the year Nets fan could not wait to arrive; 2019. After the disastrous Celtics-Nets trade that ultimately sent four first round draft picks to the Boston —and the Joe Johnson deal that included a swap pick, the Nets didn’t control their own pick for SIX years!
But there’s more to what Sean Marks faced when he took over almost three years ago. The Nets didn’t second rounders either. The Nets needed replenishment there too after picks were traded in salary dumps and for other picks. The Nets in fact didn’t control their own second round pick through 2021.
Marks traded for second rounder the night of his first draft in 2016, then later added seconds in the 2018, 2019, 2020 (two) and 2021. The Nets did trade their 2025 pick and agreed to a swap seconds in 2023 in the Jeremy Lin.
So what’s the value of second rounders? Ask the teams that passed on Rodions Kurucs, taken at No. 40 last year. He’s easily secured the role of best second round pick and in weekly rookie ratings this week, he’s no lower than ninth.
The Nets had had a long history of coming up unsuccessful with their second round selections. Before the 2018 NBA Draft, the Nets best second round selection was P.J Brown, who had a strong start to his career with the New Jersey Nets from 1993 till 1996 when he signed with the Miami Heat as a free agent. (Unless you want to consider Brian Scalabrine.)
Of course, the Nets traded away two second rounders that became All-Stars.
In 2003, they traded their 51st pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for $125,000, most of which was used to finance the Nets summer league operations, but some of it was also used to buy a copier and to pave the parking lot at the Nets offices in East Rutherford. The pick became Kyle Korver.
In 2011, the Nets would trade their second rounder —the 35th overall pick— and Troy Murphy to the Golden State Warriors for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric. Yeah another horrible trade by Billy King and down the line that pick would end up being Draymond Green, who has been a valuable piece to the Warriors current dynasty. As the San Jose Mercury News reported, the Warriors didn’t just get lucky. They planned it out.
Enter Rodions! Marks and his team found a gem in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft; Kenny Atkinson told reporters he remembers Marks bringing up the idea of drafting Kurucs.
“I wish we could take credit for it, the coaches. I think it’s talent identification, I really do,” Atkinson said. “Sean and Trajan [Langdon] and Gianluca Pascucci, those guys identified him.
“[They said] here’s a guy who has first-round potential and he slipped to 40. And I’m like, ‘What the heck are you guys telling me? This guy didn’t even play! He hasn’t played a ton.’ So really that’s [where credit goes]. Then we’ve just kind of given him the opportunity. That’s kind of how it’s rolled out.”
Indeed,Kurucs, who was selected with the 40th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, is proving he is the real deal and showing teams there is value in the second round.
With Monday nights 24-point performance against the Boston Celtics, Kurucs had his second 20 point game of the season. All other second round picks in the 2018 NBA Draft have combined for one 20-point game this season. De’Anthony Melton of the Suns had 21 on December 4 against the Sacramento Kings.
Kurucs was expected to spend the 2018-19 season in the G-League but instead he has established himself as a essential piece to Brooklyn’s strong playoff push. Even he thought he was bound for Uniondale.
“But maybe I’ll show something up here,” he told NetsDaily with a smile back on Media Day in late September. “Maybe I’ll be something like a surprise.”
The Nets rookie cracked the top five in the Week 9 Rookie Ladder being the only second round pick on the list. He dropped back to sixth place last week. The other four rookies were Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, Trae Young, Kevin Knox, and Jaren Jackson Jr. all taken in the top nine last June.
Bleacher Report has him ninth this week, putting those five and only Collin Sexton (taken with the last Nets pick from the Boston trade), Wendell Carter Jr. and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Again, all lottery picks. CBS Sports has Kurucs at No. 9 as well.
He also has a good chance of being picked for the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend next month. Not a big deal, said Kurucs. It’s all about team goals.
“That’s my main priority because we want to get to the playoffs and I just want to stay ready for that. If they have enough people to vote me there, I’ll be more than happy to be there. It’s a nice feeling.”
Why not? The 20 year-old Latvian is averaging 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 35.2 from behind the arc in 20 minutes a game.
With Kurucs building a great rookie resume, he’s proven to the Nets fan base that there’s still value in the second round of the NBA Draft … if you know where to find it.
So what’s the next second round picture going forward. It’s a hodge-podge, starting with this year’s pick which is the Knicks second. Currently, that’s the 33rd pick in the draft … to go along with the Nets own and the Nuggets’ first.
—In 2020, the Nets have Denver’s unprotected second, acquired in the Kenneth Faried salary dump, as well as the Blazers pick, but the Portland pick, acquired in the Jeremy Lin deal isn’t real. The pick is protected 1 through 55. This means Nets get it only if the Blazers have a top 5 record next year.
—In 2021, Brooklyn has the Suns second, acquired along with Jared Dudley back in July. It’s protected 31 through 35, meaning it stays with Phoenix only if they have one of the five worst records in the league.
—In 2022, they have their own second for the first time since 2011 (when they took Jordan Williams).
—In 2023, they may have to swap picks with the Hawks, but the Nets will also be getting the final payment for Thaddeus Young. In addition to the rights to the 20th pick in 2017, Caris LeVert, Marks also got what’s likely to a heavily protected second from Indiana. Between the 2019 and 2022, the Nets only get the pick if the Pacers don’t make the playoffs. If by 2023, the pick hasn’t been transferred because of protections it becomes unprotected.
—In 2024, the Nets have their own pick, but in 2025, it goes to the Hawks.
So, the Nets currently have at least one second round pick until 2025; but none their own until 2022. The others’ placement will vary based on where other NBA teams finish.
And keep in mind, all of the second round picks the Nets control are result of a Marks move. Before he arrived, the Nets did not have any second round picks between 2017 and 2022.
So what’s the secret? Atkinson said it subtly. It’s being as aggressive in scouting as you are on the court.
“He was identified early,” Atkinson said of Kurucs. “[Marks and assistant GM Trajan Langdon] identified him and his name kept coming up and I’d say we took particular interest in him.”
More than passing interest. Marks and Langdon both scouted him personally and the Nets apparently had another scout tracking him during his infrequent appearances for F.C. Barcelona. When he had a Pro Day in Los Angeles, an open tryout sponsored by his agent, there were no fewer than seven Nets reps watching … including Marks and Langdon.
And once they picked Kurucs, they signed him to a deal that said they had confidence in their scouts, a four-year $7 million total with a team option in year 4. That could be a bargain.
Can the Nets success in the second round be replicated at Barclays Center in June? That’s a tall order, but when the Nets take a second rounder this year, the pick’s possibilities WILL be discussed.