The Nets are staring at another year of irrelevancy. Can they help themselves prevent that in the draft?
This article is part of a series on NBA Draft team needs. With the NBA Draft fast approaching, many NBA franchises are narrowing in on prospects that could improve their teams for years to come. We have now reached the end of the lottery and will be exploring the draft situation of the Brooklyn Nets. Check out the bottom of this piece for the draft order accompanied by the corresponding articles that have been published so far.
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Draft Picks: #55
Team Needs: Basically Everything (Point Guard, Scorers, Rebounders, Defenders)
Following their move to Brooklyn in 2012, the Nets were looking to make a run at the NBA championship for the first time since they lost to the Spurs in 2003. When Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov purchased the team in 2010, he vowed that the Nets would win a championship within five years. Actually, in his opening press conference he called for the Nets winning the title in one year.
“How fast can we build a championship team? If everything goes as planning, I expect us to be in the playoffs next season and win a championship in one year minimum, and maximum in 5 years.” -Prokhorov
The Nets actually looked like a legitimate threat in the East when they finally left the New Jersey swamp to become the first professional sports team in Brooklyn since the Dodgers moved in 1957.
After missing out on Carmelo Anthony, the Nets swung a trade for Utah Jazz point guard, Deron Williams. At the time, Williams was deemed by many as the top point guard in the NBA, usually drawing comparisons to Chris Paul. The team had traded for All-Star guard, Joe Johnson to pair with Williams and Brook Lopez. With those three guys leading the way, the Nets finished the 2012-13 season with a 49-33 record before losing in seven games to the Chicago Bulls in the First Round of the Playoffs.
Then July 12, 2013 happened, a day that still haunts the Nets organization and its fans, and presumingly will for the foreseeable future. At the time, it looked like the Nets were cementing themselves to make a run at LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Nets traded Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, and Keith Bogans to the Celtics for 15x All-Star forward Kevin Garnett, 10x All-Star forward Paul Pierce, 2009 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry, and D.J. White.
On paper, that trade seems like a steal for the Nets, right? Prokhorov deemed it a day where “the basketball gods smiled on the Nets.” Well, fast forward to the Eastern Conference Semifinals when the Nets had their shot at the all-mighty Miami Heat. Long story short, the Nets lost in five games. Paul Pierce was set to be a free agent (where he ended up bolting for Washington) and Kevin Garnett seemed like a walking zombie.
Not to mention the fact that in the trade with the Celtics, the Nets also gave up their first round picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018, as well as the right to swap in 2017. The right to swap means that if the Nets were to hypothetically end with a worse record than the Celtics and therefore get a better first round draft pick, then the Celtics would have the ability to switch.
Now let’s fast forward to today. For the Nets, the only “star” player remaining from the 2013-14 season that wasn’t meant to be is Brook Lopez. The team currently holds the 55th pick in the draft and that’s it. The Celtics hold the 3rd pick in the draft that is from the Pierce and Garnett trade. The Nets finished this past season 21-61 with Shane “Small Hands” Larkin running the starting point guard spot for the majority of it.
Meanwhile, the Celtics went 48-34 and seem to have one of the brightest futures in the entire NBA. Still, the Nets must move forward with what they have. The team just brought in a new regime consisting of former San Antonio Spurs Assistant General Manager, Sean Marks, as the team’s new General Manager, and former New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks Assistant Coach, Kenny Atkinson, as the team’s new Head Coach. Their first big event is the draft, so let’s jump right into it.
Noah K. Murray- USA Today
55th Pick In The Draft:
The Nets have a lot of needs to fill, but unless they find the next Isaiah Thomas, they won’t find a lot of help at 55. Still, there is an opportunity here for the Nets to potentially find a future NBA role player. The question they need to answer is what position to take.
One option for the Nets is University of Oakland point guard, Kay Felder. In DraftExpress latest mock draft, they currently have him going to the Nets. Although Felder only stands at 5‘9”, he led the NCAA in assists per game last season (9.3 per game) and was fourth in points per game (24.2 per game). Scouts rave about his ability to get to the basket with ease and score from all areas on the court. The Nets, who ranked 26th in points per game and 27th in offensive rating, could certainly use a player with the offensive prowess of Felder, who has even drawn comparisons to Isaiah Thomas.
Aside from the obvious knock against Felder for his size, he has also been criticized for his lack of defensive prowess. However in the NBA combine, he played well against Maryland’s Melo Trimble on the defensive end, further helping to ensure he is drafted at all.
Another option for Brooklyn in this slot is University of Miami shooting guard, Sheldon McClellan. He has the opportunity to be a nice bench piece with his ability to space the floor because of his above-average shooting and athleticism. He shot 41% from three-point range in his senior season for the Hurricanes- something that can really help the Nets who ranked 26th in the NBA in three-pointers made on only 35% shooting from that distance.
Defensively, however, McClellan wouldn’t provide the Nets with any big boost. Scouts believe because of his size (6‘5” barefoot, 6‘7” wingspan, 198 pounds) he could be “eaten up” against other shooting guards in the NBA. Nets guards averaged a defensive box plus/minus of -1.457 this season, and none of them had a positive ranking. Basketball-Reference defines DBPM as a box score estimate of defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team. This statistic makes one believe the Nets might have to go after someone who can develop into a nice defensive asset. Essentially for McClellan to go to Brooklyn, the Nets will have to be on the lookout for an offensive minded guy.
A final likely option for the Nets at Pick 55 would be to look for a player in Europe who could develop over the course of a few seasons and either remain in Europe or come straight to the NBA. A viable option is Gracin Bakumanya, an 18-year-old center from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who is already 6‘11” and 240 pounds! This past season Bakumanya played for Espiors Antibes in France, where he averaged 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Following the trend of recent European players, he continued developing an outside shot. Still a pretty raw and growing talent, Bakumanya has the chance to be a solid option on both ends of the floor. He has already drawn comparisons to be a combination of Serge Ibaka and Dikembe Mutombo. That is pretty good company.
The one downside to Bakumanya is he will definitely need some time to develop. Not only is he 18 years old, but he also will need to fit into a new country and culture. However, if the Nets are willing to be patient, Bakumanya could definitely pay dividends for them down the road.
Can The Nets Move Up Into The First Round?
Clearly, the Nets’ new management understands that they need to build through the Draft. With all of their needs, it really is essential that they do as much as possible to find their way into the First Round. Especially now in a time of turmoil for the organization, it seems unlikely that the team will be able to attract superstar free agents. If Kevin Durant decides to take his talents to Brooklyn don’t freak out on me, I didn’t say it was impossible.
People around the NBA expect the Nets to acquire a first-round pick. A rival exec and agent each confidently said, “They will get a pick.”— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 13, 2016
It remains to be seen how the Nets might find their way into the first round. If they do, that will probably happen on draft night. As well, it will be interesting to see what the team must give up to get a pick. They really have minimal assets to trade, so unless the team decides to move Brook Lopez or Thaddeus Young, I cannot imagine a team handing them their pick.
Assuming the Nets trade for a pick ranging in the last third of the first round (20-30), it will be interesting to see where they go. One option for them who might be available is Denzel Valentine.
In each of Valentine’s four seasons at Michigan State, he was able to develop parts of his game in different facets. This season, he became the first college basketball player over 6‘5” (he is 6‘6”) to average 9 assists per game. At the next level, he has the body type to play a point-forward type, similar to Draymond Green at times. He not only is an efficient scorer (46.2% last season), but also crashes the glass, which is certainly a positive. Not to mention, he has a great level of maturity that is very important if you are going to have to deal with the New York media everyday. In recent mock drafts, Valentine has risen to as high as 18 by CBS Sports. If Brooklyn wants him, they are really going to have to go up to get him.
Another option for the Nets, who are projected to go a bit lower in the first round if they trade up, is Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis. Having been compared to Tony Parker because of his ability to squeeze his way into tight openings and good court vision, Ulis already has a basketball IQ that could make him a future starter in the NBA. Although he only stands at 5‘10”, he was the 2016 SEC player of the year with averages of 17 points and 7 assists per game. An issue with him is that he has had injury issues in the past, but if he can fight those off, he can eventually become a pretty successful NBA player.
Regardless of what happens on draft night, the Nets have a long ways to go to get back to being relevant. One positive for the organization and its fans though: can it really get worse than it is right now?
The Draft Order and Team Needs
1. Philadelphia 76ers
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston Celtics (From Brooklyn)
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. New Orleans Pelicans
7. Denver Nuggets (From New York)
8. Sacramento Kings
9. Toronto Raptors (From Denver)
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Orlando Magic
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns (From Washington)
14. Chicago Bulls
15. Denver Nuggets (From Houston)
16. Boston Celtics (From Dallas)
17. Memphis Grizzlies
18. Detroit Pistons
19. Denver Nuggets (From Portland)
20. Indiana Pacers
21. Atlanta Hawks
22. Charlotte Hornets
23. Boston Celtics
24. Philadelphia 76ers (From Miami)
25. Los Angeles Clippers
26. Philadelphia 76ers (From Oklahoma City)
27. Toronto Raptors
28. Phoenix Suns (From Cleveland)
29. San Antonio Spurs
30. Golden State Warriors
37. Houston Rockets (From New York)
46. Dallas Mavericks
55. Brooklyn Nets (From Los Angeles)
No Picks: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards
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