Sean Marks On WFAN: Nets Were 'Very Close' To Trading Up In Draft

Sean Marks speaks to the media during a press conference before a game against the New York Knicks at Barclays Center.
Photo credit USA Today Sports Images

Nets general manager Sean Marks says he was "very close" to trading up in Thursday night's draft but that he's "excited" about the player he landed with the 29th overall pick, forward Dzanan Musa.

Talking to WFAN's Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Friday, Marks said he was in serious discussions to move up at a couple of different points in the draft. When Roberts asked if he was considering trading up into the teens, Marks admitted it was "right around there."

"You're trying to figure out is the cost to trade up worth it," Marks said. "And like most teams, you want to do it on the clock because you're thinking: 'Is my guy there? Is my target there? And what's it going to cost to get there?'

"So at that point, we didn't feel like it was worth it. We weren't ready to give away the asking price. And at the same time, these two guys -- Rodi (second-round pick Rodions Kurucs) and Dzanan -- we'd been targeting, so we're definitely glad to have them in our family."

Might Marks have been hesitant to pull the trigger on a trade because he didn't want to jeopardize another potential deal in the coming days? 

"As always, everyone has a lot of things on their plate or on the table, whether they act on them or not," Marks said. "And for us, there are some things out there, whether it's pending. We'll just have to wait and see in July, whether it's how we use our cap space and how we move forward with that. We have flexibility in the future, which is important."

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The Nets reportedly traded for Dwight Howard this week by sending Timofey Mozgov and two second-round picks to the Charlotte Hornets. But with Howard wanting to play for a contender instead, he and the Nets are negotiating a buyout, according to reports. By moving Mozgov, the trade frees up enough salary cap space in summer 2019 for the Nets to possibly sign two players to max contracts.

Because the trade cannot become official until July 6, Marks cannot speak about it publicly, but he did say he believes Howard is an "exceptional talent" and an "elite center" 

As for Musa, Marks had high praise for him but admitted there is work to be done on the 19-year-old from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Everyone's talked about the offensive skill set that he has," Marks said. "He's been playing at a very, very high level in Europe for a long time, and his story is pretty intriguing, where a young kid leaves home at 11 years old by himself, and next thing you know he's grinded his way and made a name for himself over there. So we're excited to have a guy like that who has that passion for basketball again playing at a high level, playing in a grown-man's league for several years. So he's going to come in here with a skill set that we're definitely intrigued about. But again, there's definitely some small baby steps to get through for any draft pick, whether it's the first pick in the draft or the 60th pick in the draft."

There is a possiblity Musa and Kurucs, a 20-year-old forward from Latvia, could both choose to play in Europe next season, but Marks hopes they'll choose to get their NBA careers started immediately.

"I'm definitely going to bet on the development piece that our coaches bring to the table here," Marks said. "That's what our coaches do well, and I would put them up against any staff ever in terms of development piece."

Marks said he expects Musa and Kurucs to make their decisions in the next couple of weeks.

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson joined Mike Francesa on WFAN Friday afternoon. Atkinson gave his assessment of the Nets first-round pick. 

"He's a scorer. He can create too in the pick-and-roll. He's got an edge to him. He's got personality," Atkinson said. "These guys playing at 18 years old in these men's professional leagues grow up fast. Both of these guys played in tough leagues. He's an aggressive scorer. He's not just a jump shooter. His body has got to get better. We got to get him in the weight room, got to get him stronger." 

Atkinson also gave an assessment of their second-round pick, Rodions Kurucs. 

"Kurucs is almost like a Mike Dunleavy type," Atkinson said. "He's a perimeter player that can shoot it. He can put it on the floor a little bit. He can definitely play some four, but also slide to the three too." 

Drafting guys overseas is a tough task, and finding the right ones is not easy.

"The first part of development is picking the right horse," Atkinson said. "The guys that don't develop, you can't get through to them. You have to have great collaboration between management, scouting, and coaching. During the season, we're not watching the Serbian League or the Spanish League. We really rely on our scouting team to come up with these answers. Is the guy coachable? How tough is he? We have standards. There's stacks and stacks of intel reports in our office just trying to figure out who these guys are. We need guys that are coachable and I think these guys are. You never know until you get them in your gym. It doesn't matter who you draft."