Performing a complete rebuild in any sport is risky. That’s why many teams opt against it. Choosing to be mediocre or good enough to compete rather than tear it down to have a chance at being great. Some teams, however, are forced into rebuilding and have to blow it all up. Maxed out by bad contracts and an aging roster, some front offices are forced to accept the hard reality that is about to hit them very quickly. It’s an uphill climb when it comes to rebuilding a franchise from the bottom up. It’s even harder when you don’t have control of your own draft picks such as the Brooklyn Nets.
Even though it’s been four years since the trade with the Boston Celtics, the Nets are still feeling the effects of it. Any time you give away four draft picks, with three of them being unprotected and potential pick swaps, you have to hit an absolute home run with that trade. With this one, the Nets didn’t even hit the ball out of the infield.
Even with the lack of resources in something as valuable as first round picks, the Brooklyn Nets have done a fantastic job setting up for the future. Led by general manager Sean Marks, the Nets have made some smart moves this offseason. They’ve been active in the trade market, making three trades since the end of the NBA Finals. Brooklyn has acted like the dumping ground for bad contracts this offseason baking on the likes of Timofey Mozgov and DeMarre Carroll but also forcing teams to attach good assets along with them such as D’Angelo Russell and draft picks.
Marks has also continued to be a creator of chaos by continuing to sign restricted free agents to big offer sheets and in hand forcing teams to make some tough choices. He did it last year with Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson and did it once again this summer with Otto Porter Jr. It’s a shrewd move and one that hand ties opposing teams into contracts they weren’t so open to paying in the first place.
But along with that, the Brooklyn Nets have found other methods to acquire and nurture talent: the G League. Brooklyn has taken the approach of using the G League as a minor league system to help develop and call up players who could make an impact for the team. Last year the Nets had five G League players on their roster with three of them (Spencer Dinwiddie, Sean Kilpatrick, and Quincy Acy) being solid rotation guys. Kilpatrick led that trio last year as he averaged 13.1 points per game despite struggling with injuries.
The Nets have taken a legitimate interest in developing guys through that system. Even during the draft process they were looking at guys who can they potentially play for them in the G-League.
Taking guys from the G League is a very low-risk move since most of the guys are signed on 10-day contracts and now thanks to the installation of two-way contracts, teams can establish early on which players they view as legitimate contributors down the line. The Nets have already jumped on this trend and have signed two players in Yakuba Ouattra and Jake Wiley to two-way contracts. Wiley went undrafted, while Ouattara was spending his career in France.
They each bring their own sets of unique skills to the table and would be solid guard depth for the main roster if they stand out in this year. In fact with Ouattra, who has played overseas and for France, he said in an interview (via NetsDaily) that Brooklyn had scouted him for two years. It’s very evident that the Nets do their due diligence with this process.
The installation of two year contracts can help the Nets even more now that they have 45 days in which each prospect can stay with the main team. That will be a crucial time period for Kenny Atkinson and his staff to determine if either Wiley or Ouattra would be a good fit for their squad moving forward. Given the Nets recent history of G League guys, there is a solid chance that one of them could be on the main roster next season.
Brooklyn isn’t the only team on the trend of picking up players from the G League. But they are certainly taking advantage of it to the max. Calling up guys from the G League is great for the players since most guys are playing not only for the team they are playing for that night but it’s an open tryout for the rest of the teams in the NBA. Like Dinwiddie for example, who was a part of Chicago’s G League team before getting swooped up by Brooklyn during the season.
Going for guys in the G League has also helps teams that are in a cap space crunch. G League contracts are relatively cheaper than European contracts and there is no hassle regarding buyouts along with convincing the player to leave for the NBA. It offers teams a more incentive to go through the G League knowing that they can bring a player up at any time and sign him a very cheap contract if they perform well.
With the league moving more towards making the G League a more valuable farm system to NBA teams, the Brooklyn Nets are on the right track in terms of using it for a rebuild. Given their current situation, it’s very tough to do a full on rebuild the “old-fashioned way”. The Nets have taken a creative approach to this problem, utilizing a system that can help them find players that can make an impact in a couple of years.