Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks furthered his quest to rebuild the Nets in his image on his first draft day on Thursday.
The Nets did not have a first round pick this year, as it was sent to the Boston Celtics as part of the package for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in 2013.
Marks made it known that he wanted to get the Nets into the first round, and he did that with a surprise move.
The Nets sent forward Thaddeus Young to the Indiana Pacers, who had the 20th selection.
The 28-year-old Young came to the Nets in February 2015 in a trade with Minnesota for Garnett, and he played well the remainder of that season as he helped get the Nets into the playoffs.
Young’s strong play continued into last season, and he averaged 15.1 points and 9.0 rebounds.
When Marks took over in February, it looked like he would build the team around Young and center Brook Lopez.
There was the possibility that Young or Lopez, or both, would be traded this offseason, as Marks had to be creative in rebuilding the team without a first round draft pick until 2019. There also is the motivation to clear out anyone identified with the Billy King regime and as he takes the payroll down.
This was a good trade for the Nets because they got a coveted first round pick back and they will be clearing cap space. Young will make $14.1 million in 2016-17, $14.7 million in 2017-18 and has a $13.7 million player option for 2018-19.
Michigan guard Caris LeVert was chosen by Indiana to send to the Nets.
LeVert played all four years at Michigan and he averaged pretty good numbers in his senior season, with 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game.
LeVert said of the Nets, “Yeah. You know, I went for a visit about a month ago. I knew the staff really liked me but I didn’t know if they had any first-round picks. But I’m blessed to be part of this organization. Blessed to be in a great city, as well. Happy to be here.”
LeVert’s last two years at Michigan were marked by enduring multiple surgeries on his left foot. One of them ended his senior season prematurely.
On how his recovery from his foot injury is going, LeVert said, ” I probably won’t be doing Summer League, but my X-rays and CT scans look good. It’s just a matter of rushing back right now.”
“I’m just trying to do whatever it takes,” LeVert said of joining the Nets. “Next year as a rookie, I know rookies have a tougher role on the team, but I’m ready to fulfill whatever role the team needs me to do. And then for the long haul just get better, be one of the guys for the team.”
“I know it’s a great city. I played here a couple times in college, LeVert said of Brooklyn. “We played in this arena. I’m a Midwest guy, so I’m not from far away from here, but like I said, it’s a great city and I’m glad to be here. I’m ready to work my butt off.”
The Nets capped by the night by acquiring the draft rights to the hometown hero from Abraham Lincoln High School, guard Isaiah Whitehead.
The Utah Jazz chose Whitehead with the 42nd pick, and they sent his draft rights to the Nets for guard Marcus Paige, who Brooklyn chose with the 55th overall selection, and cash considerations.
Whitehead played two years at Seton Hall, most recently leading the Pirates to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. The Brooklyn native averaged 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 32.3 minutes per game in 34 games (33 starts) as a sophomore, earning unanimous All-Big East First Team honors and an Associated Press All-America honorable mention.
He was also named the 2016 Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player after averaging 23.3 points and 5.7 assists in the Big East Tournament, where the Pirates claimed their first conference tournament title since 1993.
As a freshman, Whitehead averaged 12.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 27.8 minutes per game in 22 games (19 starts) en route to Big East All-Rookie Team honors.
The Coney Island native was a McDonald’s All American and named Mr. New York Basketball by the state’s Basketball Coaches Association in 2014 while he was at Lincoln High School.
“It was a great accomplishment even to be called into the draft,” Whitehead said of being selected at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. “My family and my friends stuck with me through everything, so I’ve got to give everything to them and the way they stuck with me throughout the whole process.”
Whitehead said of playing for the Nets, “I mean, that’s everything. Just to be able to wear that Brooklyn uniform across my chest, it would be an amazing accomplishment, and I can’t wait for it.
“I mean, there’s no pressure. I mean, I played here in high school, I’ve played across the bridge in Seton Hall, so it’s really not far away. It’s just about being about your business and taking care of what you’ve got to take care of.”
On what his role with the Nets will be, Whitehead said, “Basically whatever they need me to do. If they need me to be on the bench cheering, then that’s what I’ve got to do. If they need me to play and produce, that’s what I’ve got to do. It’s a job now, so you’ve got to go to work every day and take care of business.”
Whitehead will not be the only New York City product on the Nets, as he is becoming teammates with Chris McCullough, who was drafted last season.
“I know Chris McCullough very well, since junior high school playing against him, playing with him,” said Whitehead. “He’s a great player, and he’s a good friend of mine.
“I mean, it’s basically two city guys just trying to get to somewhere in life, just trying to grow and play for NBA teams. It will be a blessing to have his friends and his family there and my friends and family there and to watch us play.”
Marks was understandably pleased at the end if his first draft day as an NBA GM.
“I think there’s a lot of reasons why Brooklyn’s attractive,” Marks said on Thursday night. “First off the commitment from ownership being no. 1. They’ve stood behind here and said ‘we’ve gonna build this facility’ that you guys are all in. We’re not afraid to spend money. Other than that, the city and Brooklyn and everything else speaks for itself.”
“It’s not going out there and spending money just for the sake of spending it. We’ll hopefully make the right decisions and it starts with bringing in high character people.”
Marks emphasized that Nets “aren’t going to skip steps along the way … I think we’ll get the right people and we’ll get people that want to come here.
“We need a few things,” he said while laughing. “We know who we’re targeting out there and we’ll see how it goes. Today we got a few building blocks for the roster and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
The Nets traded Young, who was thought to be a building block, and drafted two young guys that could certainly be building blocks for the future.