Meet Andrew Baker, the magician behind the Brooklyn Nets insane 2019 offseason that includes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“What Sean Marks just pulled off should be studied in basketball circles and business classes for the next hundred years.” Those are the words that longtime New York sports commentator Michael Kay spoke.
Such a statement came only a day after the remarkable decisions of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan to suit up for the Brooklyn Nets. Those signings go deeper than basketball for a fanbase that has suffered so much. It’s the validation of a plan that was formulated from Day 1 of Marks’ tenure and was never wavered from.
While he rightfully deserves a ton of individual praise, it is the unorthodox hires made under him that became the catalyst for such an immense change.
What separates good executives from great executives is their uncanny ability to identify trends before anyone else. An obvious example being the Warriors fully unlocking the potential of the three-point line. For Sean Marks, it was maximizing specialist positions that were either undervalued or not considered necessary.
It has been well documented that the Nets medical staff, led by Dr. Martin O’Malley (who at this point might be the world’s most famous foot doctor), in addition to the hiring of a former Navy Seals trainer Zach Weatherford as head of the performance team, have both undoubtedly improved the team. However, completing that elite trio is Capologist Andrew Baker whose contributions have gone under the radar.
Education And Experience
Baker’s official position of Director of Contract Management is only recently being implemented throughout the league. In an interview with Hoops Hype, former assistant general manager of the Nets, Bobby Marks, revealed his thoughts on the matter.
“I think [hiring capologists] is relatively new. When I started with the Nets, that wasn’t a position. We all did 10 different jobs and know the salary cap was one of them (laughs). We’re all different in terms of how we got in; I interned and self-taught myself that stuff. But there are also people who are lawyers and use their law background. There are teams that have multiple tasks assigned to each executive. Brooklyn is a little bit different. They have a strategic planning coordinator Andrew Baker and that is his sole focus.”
There are few people more qualified than Mr. Baker from an educational perspective.
From 2007-2011 he attended New York University where he earned a degree in sports management. During those four summers, he spent time working as both a media relations intern for the Mets and a network operations consultant for Madison Square Garden. Baker then went on to graduate school at Tulane University to pursue a law degree.
That set him up for a job with the Spurs as a basketball quality assurance assistant where he coincidentally crossed paths with Sean Marks. Marks recognized his skill set and clearly wanted him in Brooklyn. Even though the situation was considered hopeless, Baker was not intimidated along with everyone else who was hired at the time.
Fast forward three years to the most pivotal offseason in Nets history and Baker was ready to demonstrate his knowledge. Commitments from three players who had to be paid without the necessary cap space presented a tough challenge. A series of tweets by self-proclaimed expert Albert Nahmad perfectly summarizes how he thinks this was able to go down.
To sign Kevin Durant to his max deal of $38.2 million and Kyrie Irving to his max of $32.7 million, the Nets needed $70 million of cap space when they could only create $68.8 million. The first step would be wiping out the non-guaranteed contracts of Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier. Some NBA analysts like the aforementioned Bobby Marks and Jon Barry theorized that both players would have to take pay cuts close to $5 million and make the rest back through incentivized bonuses.
Instead, orchestrated by Andrew Baker the Nets guaranteed a majority of the Graham/Napier contracts and combined that with D’Angelo Russell’s in a trade-match for Kevin Durant. That part makes the whole thing work because the Nets were allowed to exceed the cap by $9.2 million, which could not have been done had he signed outright. The extra money was used to cover the salary of none other than DeAndre Jordan; therefore, completing the ideal “Plan A.” Kenny Atkinson only smiled about when asked about the Nets offseason goals at the NBA Combine. After it is said and done, the Nets will end up at around $116.5 million for the 2019-2020 season $16 million below the luxury tax threshold.
For the immediate future, the Brooklyn Nets will most likely round out the roster with another player on a vet minimum. One player to watch closely is former Warrior Quinn Cook, who has been reported to have a very close relationship with Kevin Durant. In terms of long-term flexibility, the Nets finally control their own first-round pick for years to come.
The goal remains to win a championship and a three to four-year window now exists. That is no longer an ideal if everything goes right. Rather, it is an expectation by fans and media alike. It’s crazy to think signing two of the best players to pick up a basketball could be considered a disappointment. Although, that is the reality when attempting to form a superteam.
Making things even more difficult the extensions for Jarret Allen and Caris LeVert loom even larger than they did already. The Nets have opened up the salary cap equivalent of Pandora’s box and Andrew Baker would want it no other way.