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Nets hope to rebuild without Bridges

Complete swap with Knicks for bevy of future picks

July 9, 2024 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Nets are moving on from Mikal Bridges and moving into the unknown.

But after a 50-loss season and their first non-playoff campaign in six years, they are trusting that Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks will lead them to a brighter future.

“I think you have to look yourself in the mirror as an organization and sort of say what’s the best path for us moving forward here, and how do we do this and how do we have that sustainable success that we want,” Marks told reporters Monday at the team’s HSS Training Center in Industry City.

On Saturday, the Nets made official what was known before the June 26 NBA Draft at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Bridges, a boon to Brooklyn’s playoff push following his arrival in the February 2022 trade that sent superstar Kevin Durant to Phoenix, was going to the arch rival New York Knicks, though the exact details of the swap were still murky.

Now, it’s all very clear.

The Nets acquired five first-round draft picks, one first-round pick swap, a second-round draft pick, forwards Bojan Bogdanović and Mamadi Diakite and guard Shake Milton from New York in exchange for Bridges and fellow forward Keita Bates-Diop, a 2026 second round draft pick (least favorable of Detroit, Milwaukee and Orlando’s) and the draft rights to guard Juan Pablo Vaulet.

Brooklyn acquired New York’s first-rounders in 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031, a first-round swap in 2028, Milwaukee’s first-round selection in 2025 (protected one through four) and the its own second-rounder in 2025.

“So when you’re able to (add) that amount of draft assets over the course of the last year, I think that’s going to help us in our trajectory long term,” Marks told the Associated Press.

Bridges, who has yet to miss an NBA game in his six-year career, averaged 26.1 points over 27 games during the drive to the 2023 postseason after arriving on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

Though Brooklyn bowed out in four games to Philadelphia in the opening round, the future looked to be in good hands as Bridges and fellow new additions Cam Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith appeared primed to keep Brooklyn relevant, even without Durant and Kyrie Irving.

However, as Bridges struggled last season, so did the Nets.

The 6-foot-6 Villanova alum averaged 19.6 points per contest, finishing behind Cam Thomas for the team lead. He also shot just 43.6% from the field, his lowest percentage since his rookie season in Phoenix in 2018-19.

“Mikal was a focal point of this organization,” Marks intimated.

Mikal Bridges is gone to the arch rival Knicks as the Nets made their pre-draft deal official over the weekend. AP Photo by Eric Gay

With the emphasis clearly on the “was”, Marks and the Nets are ready to start next season with Thomas, Johnson and the recently re-signed Nic Claxton as the budding nucleus.

That’s despite his admiration for Bridges, the league’s iron man who didn’t miss a single game in college either.

“I think it’s been reported that Mikal wanted to leave or requested a trade. That could not be further from the truth,” the GM said.

“That’s just not in Mikal’s character. That’s not who he is and that definitely did not happen. He was told by me when I called him and let him know that we’re at the 2-yard line.”

Claxton averaged a career-best 9.9 rebounds to go with 11.8 points and 2.1 blocked shots in 71 games last year, making him what new Nets coach Jordy Fernandez called a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

He came back to Brooklyn on a reported four-year, $100 million pact, though the team does not release official salary information.

“I give Nic a heck of a lot of credit for the steps he’s taken with his game year after year,” Marks said Monday. “It’s great to have homegrown talent here. I think Nic fits in a variety of different pathways we want to go.”

Bogdanovic will begin his second stint in Brooklyn next season. He was here for the first three seasons of his NBA career from 2014-17, averaging 11.2 points per contest while draining 36 percent of his shots from 3-point range.

The 6-foot-7 Bosnian made five other stops in the league before returning to where it all started when he was acquired by the Nets from Miami in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Last year, Bogdanovic appeared in 29 games off the bench for the Knicks, averaging 10.4 points and draining 37 percent of his 3s. He is a 39.4% shooter from long range for his career.

The 6-foot-5 Milton played in 48 games as a reserve for New York last season and averaged 4.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

Diakite, who stands at 6-foot-9, played in only six regular-season games as a reserve last season with the Knicks and San Antonio, averaging 2.0 points in 4.1 minutes per contest while spending time in the G-League for both organizations.

Nets center Nic Claxton officially inked a reported four-year, $100 million pact to remain in Brooklyn. AP Photo by Mary Altaffer

Regardless of the impact the trio of players they received from New York will improve the Nets, Marks knew as soon as last season ended that Bridges would be leaving, Claxton would be staying and picks could be had even though Brooklyn didn’t have a selection in 2024.

“This was the best pathway for us to go down,” he insisted.

Whether it is or not will be determined by how well the franchise seeking its first-ever NBA title uses those future picks.


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