With the NBA Draft happening on Thursday, let’s take a look at some of the questions surrounding the Nets heading into the draft, plus look at some prospects who’ve been mocked to Brooklyn from various expert’s mocks.
Brooklyn’s Pre-Draft Questions
This year’s NBA Draft has been a bit of an afterthought when it comes to the Nets, because the team and fandom are so focused on what comes after the draft in regards to free agency. There’s the lingering question of Will Kyrie Irving me a Net? and the related Will D’Angelo Russell be a Net? There’s all the questions that were surrounding the possibility of Kevin Durant joining the team, but he’ll miss next season with an Achilles tear, so it’s best to just try to forget about those questions for now, though Durant not being in the picture introduces a whole host of other issues, like whether or not Brooklyn pursues other max-level free agents.
The free agency period is going to be a mess, but there are some draft-related questions that don’t pertain to free agency, like…
What does Brooklyn need most?
Not point guards! The team’s already got Spencer Dinwiddie under contract, is rumored to be going after Kyrie Irving, and has the rights to match any offer sheet that D’Angelo Russell signs, which puts the Nets in a position where they’ll go into next season with two good point guards no matter what. Not a position of draft need.
But everything else could be. We don’t know if Ed Davis will be back, so adding someone who can back up Jarrett Allen could be a move, though I’d think the Nets would be more interested in keeping Davis or adding some other veteran there, because backing up a young big with a younger big has the potential to not work. Still, the right player falling to this spot could lead the Nets to go for a center.
That leaves the wing, and the Nets, like most teams, could always use more help out on the wing. Get someone who can play the 2 and the 3, or someone who can play the 3 and the 4. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is almost certainly not getting re-signed, so a wing who can play small ball center for stretches is also an idea.
Draft for upside, or draft for immediate impact?
The Nets were the sixth seed in the East last year and have the space to add at least one max contract guy, so if I’m team management, I’m not looking for a project with the team’s first round pick, but are instead interested in finding someone who can come in and be a solid piece right off the bat.
Trading down, maybe?
The Nets are a pretty deep squad, so unless a really good deal comes along, I’d stay where they are on draft night.
Who Might They Pick?
While fan sites around the league are filled with prospect breakdowns and draft talk, all the various Nets fan sites seem solely focused on free agency at this point. In fact, I’d planned on writing a series of pieces here breaking down some prospects, but it didn’t really feel like the timing was right, or that people would want to read about Talen Horton-Tucker when they could instead talk about free agency.
But ahead of Thursday, I took a look at some of the more popular mock drafts, and here’s a list of who they have Brooklyn taking, followed by some thoughts on how I think these guys might fit into the mix if they end up being Brooklyn’s pick.
- Sam Vecenie, The Athletic: Mfiondu Kabengele
- Kyle Boone, CBS Sports: Matisse Thybulle
- Gary Parish, Reid Forgrave, CBS Sports: KZ Okpala
- Mark Strotman, NBC Sports Chicago: Nic Claxton
So, a mix of wings and bigs, basically.
Let’s break those four names down into two categories and discuss them.
Kabengele has a lot of upside. He can hit from outside and his defense looks good, but there are questions about his post offense and his high amount of turnovers. Decision making and finishing inside need to improve, but Kabengele feels like a project more than someone who can come in and give the Nets an immediate impact in the front court.
Claxton is tough to evaluate. He’s extremely athletic and his defense should translate to the NBA, as he’s a switchable big who’s capable of blocking a bunch of shots. But offensively, Georgia basically used him as a point guard a ton, and it’s hard to see just exactly how his offensive game will look when he’s relegated to the role of a more traditional big. His shooting would give the Nets options, though, and this would be an interesting pick.
Of the two wings mentioned above, I feel really good about Thybulle — a player with elite upside on the defensive end — and far less good about Okpala.
Thybulle would give the Nets a player with tremendous ability in terms of steals and blocks, and his defensive awareness is already extremely high. Offensively, he’s not much of a driver, but he’s shown flashes of being able to hit threes, and if that part of his game comes along, he can be a really good wing.
Okpala is…less intriguing. Draft Twitter is very anti-Okpala, and for good reason. He can be a three wing, but can he be a three-AND-d wing? And can he be useful as anything other than a spot up guy? I can see why teams like him, as he fits the physical profile of the kind of wing teams want, but I’m not sold on his skill set translating.
Of all these options, Thybulle is who I’d most want to see in a Nets uniform on Thursday night. I also like Talen Horton-Tucker, who has a very unique build as a wing with tremendous wingspan and the upside to be a disruptive defender and a highly capable offensive player, but I don’t really know if he’ll A) be available or B) if the Nets would see him as a fit for the team they’re building.