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Advice for new Nets GM Sean Marks: Start from scratch

The Nets are badly in need of a reboot. Before new GM Sean Marks tinkers with the roster, he must put his stamp on the organization in these three ways.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mikhail Prokhorov has done little right since purchasing the Brooklyn Nets in 2010. He foolishly declared the team would win a title within five years and then forced the organization to chase his misguided and inane prophecy. He cycled through head coaches as if there was some kind of bonus awaiting him after each firing, all while allowing general manager Billy King to remain in charge despite a history of ill-advised signings and bad trades.

The result was a spectacular failure the league hasn't seen since Isiah Thomas ran the New York Knicks. The Nets are 15-42 this year and have just one playoff win to show for their excess. They are now essentially hopeless -- they don't control their own first-round pick until 2019, their best player is a seven-footer who can't stay healthy or defend and they have just one intriguing young player on their team. That's 21-year-old small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a 2015 first-round pick that's averaging just 5.2 points per game and is recovering from ankle surgery.

That's the situation new general manager Sean Marks inherits.

The 40-year-old Marks is the latest Gregg Popovich/R.C. Buford protégée to land a general manager job for a team hoping to ingest some of that magic San Antonio Spurs pixie dust. The task ahead of him is difficult, but some avenues towards success do exist.

Here is our advice for the new Nets' GM.

Ignore the glitz

Tony Brown, who replaced the deposed Lionel Hollins in January, is the Nets' head coach now. If you don't know much about him, you're not alone. It's highly unlikely he'll still be in charge come October, which means hiring a new head coach is Marks' first big decision.

Luckily, there's never been a better year to have a head coaching vacancy. Successful veterans like Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, Mike D'Antoni and Jeff Van Gundy are on the market. Former Cleveland Cavaliers head man David Blatt is sitting at home twiddling his thumbs. Kentucky head coach John Calipari is reportedly open to rejoining the NBA, again. There are also many assistant coaches with loaded résumés, such as Ettore Messina, Marks' former colleague from San Antonio.

"There's a list of coaches out there and we'll be looking worldwide. We won't limit it just to the U.S. or anywhere,'' Marks said last week at his introductory press conference, via the New York Post. "The entire organization staff will be expanded, without a doubt. Whether it's scouting, front office,€” we got a D-league team, that staff will have to be built,€” there will be staff members that'll be added to this.''

The decision is an important one. Not only will it influence the Nets' success next year, but it will also establish the organizational philosophy.

The Nets will have around $40 million in cap space this summer, enough to sign two big-name players. There will be a number of intriguing free agents available that could help turn Brooklyn around, including Mike Conley, Al Horford and DeMar DeRozan.

But Marks has to make sure he doesn't throw money at the wrong players just to boost the Nets' win total next year. The goal should be building a sustainable team that can compete for a championship for many years, not one that sneaks into the playoffs and never progresses. Cap space can be great, but it can also lead to foolish decisions, such as absorbing over-priced veterans as a means to wrestle New York City from the Knicks.

That path these last five years was a poor one and only damaged the Nets' own books. Luckily for Nets fans, Marks seems to recognize the folly in worrying about his his crosstown rivals.

"I can't be so shallow as to think that I'm just going to be competing with one team," Marks told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowksi while appearing as a guest on his podcast. "We're not going to [chase headlines]. We're going to stay true to who we are."

Quality and fit matter more than glamour. Marks seems to know this, but he also has to make sure to trust his instincts and convince the bosses of his view when faced with big decisions this summer.

Build the roster from the ground up

Normally, teams with porous records like the Nets rebuild through the draft. That, of course, is not an option for Brooklyn this year, or next, or the year after that. The Boston Celtics own the Nets' first-round pick outright in 2016 and 2018 and can swap with them in 2017.

Instead, Marks will have to get creative. That could mean bringing in high-upside international players and stashing them on the Nets' new D-League team. It can mean using cap space on young up-and-comers instead of proven stars. It could also mean selling off the few assets he still has for draft picks and young players.

Thaddeus Young is an excellent example of a solid player that could be moved for future assets. The 27-year-old forward is averaging 15 points and nine rebounds in the prime of his career, but is unlikely to play a major role on the next great Nets team. He is, however, signed for three more seasons at around $12 million per year (the third is a player option), which could end up being a bargain once the new salary cap kicks in. Perhaps the Nets could capitalize on his current value and acquire pieces that will help down the road.

But Marks' toughest roster decision will involve Brook Lopez. Lopez remains one of the league's top interior scorers and is also just 27 years old, but he has a history of foot injuries and has never been a great defensive center. When he does slide into position, he's decent at protecting the rim, holding opponents to 46 percent on such attempts. However, he's slow-footed and rarely in the right spot. He's also a weak rebounder and hopeless when it comes to containing opposing pick-and-rolls.

In today's NBA, where speed and ball movement are more valuable than posting up, are Lopez's offensive skills really outweighing his defensive weaknesses? As with Young, the chances of Lopez still being in his prime once the Nets are finally ready to compete are slim. Now might be a good time to trade him while he has value.

Marks' first move this summer will be finding a coach. His second should be working the phones so that he can find new homes for Lopez and Young.

"Spurs" the place up

Every so often, Popovich provides a morsel of insight into his organization's long-lasting success. Recently, he explained that having a sense of humor and feeling "comfortable in your own skin" are keys to collaboration. Here is the full quote:

These are the qualities that have lifted the Spurs to four championships and decades of success. These are also qualities the Nets have been missing since moving to Brooklyn.

Listen to Marks speak, and you can hear that aspect of Popovich pouring out of him. When Wojnarowski asked him about the Nets' lack of draft picks, Marks chuckled and responded quickly, "Let's not bring that up." He quipped about having already offered the head coaching job to Popovich but being turned down. He cracked jokes and laughed. It's not that he doesn't take the job or role seriously, but in that interview, he conveyed that some levity is needed in order to seriously win.

Levity has been missing from the Nets. Instead, Prokhorov's sole focus was to acquire as many big names as possible while creating a hierarchical chain of command that put him and his Russian advisors over the general manager. That system is the opposite of how the Spurs do things.

"One of big lessons I learned from Pop is never skipping steps," Marks told Wojnarowski.

One of those steps has to be addressing the team's culture along with its talent. That's the most important task of all.