When Sean Marks took over as GM of the Nets two years ago, the outlook was bleak and optimism low. The team had been rinsed of its draft picks for four years thanks to that fateful trade with the Celtics and were one of the worst teams in the league.
Normally, hope exists for all teams, no matter how putrid the on-court product is because at least losing contributes to the chance of drafting a star in the next draft. The Nets, of course, have been devoid of that hope which compounds the losing.
But this season, head coach Kenny Atkinson has earned plaudits, as well as the front office, for making the best they can with what they have. The team has improved, which is all Atkinson is looking for at this stage of the rebuild.
"We're a better team," Atkinson told Mike Scotto of The Athletic. "We've added players, and some of our players have developed, so yeah. Listen, we haven't accomplished anything. ... Hopefully, at the end of this year, there's tangible progress where we're eight games better, 10 games better than last year. I think that's important for our culture. I know we talk the process and just worrying about improving, I do believe that. ... The bottom line in this league is winning, so to show that improvement I think gives our guys more confidence."
Last season, the Nets went 20-62. This season, before their game on Thursday night against the Hornets, the team is 19-40, meaning they'll need to play close to .500 basketball for the rest of the season to make a 10-win improvement on last year.
They had no choice but to try and win as the Cavaliers will reap the rewards of their losing. But at the risk of indirectly complimenting himself, Marks is happy with how the front office has been able to work around the bad hand they've been dealt from the past regime by finding ways to add draft picks.
"I think what we've done in terms of just being as creative as we can in terms of adding some more of these draft picks, they're really just tools," Marks said. "Whether it's future picks years out and so forth, adding them back in, we never know when and how we're going to use them. It's nice to at least have them at our disposal."