The Brooklyn Nets had themselves a bittersweet Saturday night.
Moments after the Washington Wizards matched the team’s offer sheet to restricted free-agent Otto Porter Jr., Sean Marks traded center Justin Hamilton to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for small forward DeMarre Carroll, a lottery protected 2018 first-round pick and a 2018 second-round pick.
It was widely expected around the NBA that the Wizards would match Brooklyn’s four-year, $106.5 million offer, but you can’t fault Marks for trying. He is now 0-4 in trying to sign RFA’s over the past 16 months. The Wizards can continue to tie up Brooklyn’s cap space by taking two days to schedule Porter’s physical and another two days to announce the results.
According to multiple sources, Porter’s offer sheet contained a 15% trade kicker and upfront money. Those factors did not stop Washington from matching. Now owner Ted Leonsis will pay the luxury tax for the first time in the organization’s history.
Even if the Wizards fully extract revenge on the Nets for trying to sign one of their best young players by tying up their money, it did not preclude Marks from taking on another bloated contract in exchange for valuable assets. As soon as the Wizards announce that they’ve matched the offer sheet, Brooklyn will receive its money back and be able to complete the trade with Toronto. The Nets were without a single pick in the 2018 draft. Now, they’ll have a high first rounder from Toronto and potentially two second-round picks. The second round pick from Toronto will be the less favorable one between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic. They will also receive the Indiana Pacers’ second round pick if they miss the postseason, which is looking extremely likely now that Paul George has been shipped out of town.
The 30-year-old Carroll has a change to slot in as Brooklyn’s starting small forward. He had the best season of his career in 2015 while playing for the Atlanta Hawks, where Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson was the top assistant. Sources say Atkinson loves Carroll and is thrilled to have him in Brooklyn. Carroll is halfway through a four-year, $60 million deal he signed with the Raptors two summers ago. The Nets agreed to take on the remainder of his salary from Toronto, and the front office believes he can still play. Carroll averaged 8.9 points, grabbed 3.8 rebounds and shot 34.1 percent from three in 72 games for the Raptors last season. He will also be a solid veteran presence in the locker room, something Atkinson said the Nets need more of with such a young roster. He will be looked upon to help lead the team along with Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker.
Hamilton played one season with the Nets, averaging 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 64 games. He will now be a solid backup center on a playoff contender in Toronto. This trade leaves the Nets thin up front, but I don’t think they are done making moves just yet.
This was an absolute steal of a deal for the Nets. Kudos to Marks, who continues to make shrewd and strategic moves as he guides the organization back toward NBA relevancy. He has done an admirable job replenishing Brooklyn’s bare draft cupboard, and now he is mastering the art of the salary dump in order to accumulate assets.
Yes, he has taken on the contracts of Carroll and Timofey Mozgov, who both don’t deserve the high salaries they are making. But in addition to those contracts, he has brought in a talented young star point guard in D’Angelo Russell and two more picks in those deals. That is not an easy feat to pull off, especially for a first-time GM. Marks could not be going about this massive rebuild in a better way. He is putting the Nets in position to sustain long-term success in the future and if he keeps this up, the future may not be all that far away. The Nets may not be very good this season, but they will be young, hungry and extremely fun to watch.