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Grading the Youth Movement ... so far

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Lintao Zhang

You can call it a "youth movement." The Nets don't but they certainly have gotten younger since the end of last season when Brooklyn was the second oldest team in the NBA, right behind Miami and ahead of the Knicks.  This season, they are currently 10th at 27.2 years. The Heat are still the oldest. at 28.5, followed by (surprise) the Wizards and the Knicks.

So, with preseason halfway over and some competition for those final two roster spots nearly resolution, we figured we'd take a look at how each of the players in the "movement" are doing, from the oldest, Jerome Jordan, to the youngest, Sergey Karasev.

Jerome Jordan, (just turned) 28. Jordan really isn't part of the youth movement, but he is new to the Nets and without 21 games to his NBA career. The seven-footer looks like he's going to get one of those open roster spots. He has played well, his huge body clogging the lane on defense and grabbing boards and putting them back.  In the two China games, he played 25 minutes, scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds, blocked three shots and not turned the ball over.  Lionel Hollins and Paul Westphal have both said nice things about him. If he makes the team, as now seems likely, Jordan will receive a $100,000 guarantee on his vets minimum deal. Hollins had him in Grizzlies camp two years ago. He was the last player cut.

Bojan Bogdanovic, 25. Oh Boj! The Nets have long been high on Bogdanovic, whose rights they bought from the Timberwolves in the 2011. Well worth the wait. In his first two games, both starts, he showed flashes and then vs. the Kings in Beijing, he put together a nice all-around game. He showed a mid-range and long-range shooting touch, some nice post moves and a very good BBIQ, shown Wednesday when took a high pass at the three point line, saw Brook Lopez cutting to the rim and hit him with a bullet. His defense, which everyone assumed would be horrid, has been a surprise. Zach Lowe calls him a stealth All-Rookie team member. He will be one of the few starters in the 2014 rookie class and one of an even smaller number who play for team that should be a contender.

Jorge Gutierrez, 25. At Media Day, we asked Gutierrez what his goal was for the season. He smiled and said, staying on the team. He made $25,000 just by making the training camp roster, but didn't play until Wednesday in Beijing, getting two DNP-CD's. He played well enough in the fourth quarter and overtime, pushing the ball and not making mistakes. He finished with two points, four rebounds, three assists and one turnover.  Whether he can make the team is a big question mark. The Nets already have three point guards under contract in Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack and Marquis Teague. Teague is fully guaranteed. If they waived Teague, and he didn't catch on anywhere else, they would to pay out $1.1 million plus two or three times that in luxury tax.  Is there enough difference between the two to warrant the Nets dumping Teague and eating his contract?  Doubt it very, very much.

Willie Reed, 24. Reed will be remembered for his mistake late in regulation Wednesday. With seconds left, after taking a pass from Mason Plumlee under the basket, Reed flubbed it and with it a chance to win the game in dramatic fashion. Oh well. He didn't play badly otherwise. In his first minutes of preseason, Reed like Gutierrez played well enough. He wound up with a +9 in 13 minutes, with a dramatic block on Ryan Hollins, a sweet alley oop pass to Plumlee and two crucial free throws to put the Nets up by eight. Problem is that he is up against Jordan and Cory Jefferson, who has a $75,000 guarantee.

Mason Plumlee, 24. Plumlee had a great summer, as everyone who knows the shape of a basketball can tell you. After being a surprise choice for the USA Select practice squad, he was surprisingly elevated to Team USA where he played sparingly but well and came out of it with a gold medal in the FIBA World Cup. He looked a little out of it, maybe burnt out, in his first couple of games and even into the second half of Wednesday's game in Beijing. Then, he took over on both sides of the court. He finished with 18 points in only 21 minutes, hitting 7-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the line. Plumlee's further development this season is a big priority for the franchise.

Cory Jefferson, 23. Jefferson has played sparingly thus far in preseason, two minutes vs. Maccabi and 15 vs the Kings Wednesday. Truth be told, he didn't play as well as Reed. He missed two free throws late in regulation and missed a three in OT. Jefferson has a few things in his favor: the $75,000 guarantee, the 37.5" vertical leap and a range out to the three point line. His thin frame limits him playing back-up center but his range gives him a shot at PF.

Markel Brown, 22. Before the Nets hit the preseason, his teammates were praising his three point shooting, monster dunks and defense. Since they've been playing the games, none of those skills have been evident. He was a DNP-CD in Shanghai and in the two previous games, played 14 scoreless minutes. Expect him to get some burn vs. Boston, where his OSU teammate, Marcus Smart, is starting.

Marquis Teague,21. Teague had what was probably his best game as a Net vs. Sacramento in Shanghai, playing 15 minutes, including at game's end. He played well and under control, scoring nine points, making three (of four) free throws late. He had two assists and only one turnover. More importantly, he played with confidence, something that's been lacking in his game. In Beijing, he was a non-factor, as Hollins went with Gutierrez. His $1.1 million deal is guaranteed.

Sergey Karasev, 20. Karasev had a great couple of games in China. In Shanghai, with the game in the balance and Ben McLemore looking at him the way predators look at prey, the young Russian held his ground, then forced McLemore away from the basket before blocking his shot at the buzzer. The first man off the bench to congratulate him was KG. In Beijing, he stepped up in overtime. In the last 1:08, he grabbed a key offensive rebound and scored the Nets last seven points to put the Kings away. We expect he'll get some burn vs. Boston, too. Nets ownership love their fellow countryman. They've cited, among other things, his clutch play. He sure looked clutch in China!

We don't know when the Nets will make their first cuts or whether they will carry 14 or 15 players on Opening Night. So some of this report is perishable. But so far, the Nets seemed to have picked well.