The Nets don't have much wiggle room this offseason. They are strapped for cap space, don't have any picks in the upcoming draft and have given up their D-League affiliation. Also, they hope to develop a sense of continuity after adding 16 new players the last two training camps.
The team's 32-man free agent mini-camp, which starts Monday morning and has already changed, is one way around the loss of flexibility. Think of it as part of an integrated, if limited, player development strategy, with prospective second round picks, former NBA players, D-Leaguers and some European imports vying for jobs. to fill out first the summer league roster, then training camp and finally the bottom of the regular season roster. No matter their background, undervalued prospects are what a lot of the summer is going to be about, mining overseas, the D-League, or the draft's second round ... if they acquire a pick.
Scanning the camp roster and listening to draft prospect interviews, two underlying themes emerge: The big news is the team is looking small. It seems the front office has put a priority on using the draft and free agency to acquire swingmen and even point guards, not bigs, in the off-season. Also, the Nets are now a top destination for players and their agents. Players want to try out for the team, agents want to place their players here.
We base that on a number of factors. From what we can tell, the Nets focused on talking with swingmen and even a couple of point guards at the pre-Draft combine, players like Shabazz Napier, Spencer Dinwiddie and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Moreover, only six of the 32 men working out for the team at camp can be considered true big men, either at power forward or center. There are quite a few tall players who can stretch the floor, though, like Donte Greene, the most NBA-experienced vet in camp.
One center to keep an eye on over the next week or so is Cameron Moore. Moore was an animal at UAB a few years back, averaging 16 points while grabbing 10 rebounds in 2011-2012. Moore has spent two seasons in Europe, most recently playing with JuveCaserta last year. Moore came off the bench for the Italian club, but still managed to average 14 points per game on 58% shooting. His rebounding numbers stood at around seven, a little bit less than his numbers at UAB, but he posted a PER of 24.79 in nearly 25 minutes per game. Moore is long at about 6'10" in shoes, with a 7'1.5" wingspan and a standing reach of 9'.5". Moore had a high motor at UAB and is an exceptional shot blocker. However, his frame makes him a liability when defending post ups and also when trying to score against stronger opposing players. Moore did workout with the Nets before going undrafted in the 2012 draft.
Michael Snaer was invited to training camp with the Nets last season but opted to play in Italy for Enel Brindisi. Snaer had a shaky first season in Italy, coming off the bench for Brindisi and averaging seven points on 44% shooting. Snaer was a hero at Florida State, where he hit big shot after big shot against prominent competition in the ACC. However, Snaer went undrafted last summer. Snaer has an awkward release on jump shots and doesn't have much size either. If the Nets do fall for him again and invite him to training camp, he could develop into a 3-and-D player. Snaer is a veteran who has spent time being the leader of a winning program, so he could fit into the Nets veteran core.
Yakhouba Diawara was a late add to the list. Diawara has a fair amount of NBA experience after starting 56 games for the Nuggets and Heat before he decided to return overseas in 2010. Bouncing around Italy and France, Diawara has averaged 14 points over the last four years. Diawara is a slasher with size at 6'7" 225 pounds. However, at 32 years old, he's likely at the end of his career.
Diowara was accompanied to East Rutherford by Edwin Jackson, a 6'3" shooting guard who is 24 and has a lot of international experience. Often described as "cocky," he's also hyper-athletic and can hit the three from deep. He has some, limited point guard skills and his shot selection can drive coaches crazy. The son of an American basketball player and a French woman, he was once seen as a young Tony Parker, but Parker is more than just a collection of skills. Jackson wants a summer league invitation with the Nets. He's said so.
Another interesting name is Kenny Boynton. Boynton, who just turned 23, was on an upward trend at Florida but went undrafted in last year's draft. He's a 6'2" playmaker with deceptively quick speed. He also has a 6'5.5" wingspan, which gives him the length to be a tough defender. Boynton doesn't get into the paint very often due to his size, so he needs to be able to hit his perimeter shots, which he struggled with during his senior year at Florida. He is a willing passer with a high motor. Boynton had a fair assist to turnover ratio during his senior year at Florida with a 2.13, proving he is a capable ball handler. Most recently, Boynton played in Israel where he improved his three point shooting, hitting 46.5 percent in the Balkan League, one of two leagues his team plays in.
Ivan Johnson has become a fan favorite on the NetsDaily boards despite not coming close to signing with the team. With Johnson looking to sign with a team in the NBA after spending time in China, some said the Nets should go after him. But, Johnson is essentially Reggie Evans with a worse record. Johnson is 6'8" with a high motor, but past that, he is nothing more. He's already 30 despite playing two seasons in the NBA and only received 16 minutes a game in that short stint. Johnson can't shoot outside of the paint and isn't as talented a rebounder as Evans was for Brooklyn. Nor can he defend well.
Donte Greene is the last name we'll look at. Greene was very close to signing a deal with the Nets two years ago before a fractured ankle stopped the transaction. Greene hasn't been in the league since the injury, but before that he played four seasons with the Sacramento Kings. He is a 6'11" small forward who can shoot the ball a bit as a spot-up shooter. Greene isn't a terrific defender and despite being able to put the rock in the hoop, he doesn't do it efficiently, he has a career true shooting percentage of 49%. If Greene were to have a spot on the team, Mirza Teletovic may have filled it already. Teletovic has similar size to Greene and is a more refined player, but maybe Greene can intrigue the front office like he did two years back before the injury.
This workout is not going to be all that telling for the Nets future, but it's not supposed to be. Maybe a few get invited to Orlando to play in the Summer League, maybe a few get invited to training camp with the team, or maybe nothing happens with the Nets and any of these players. It's all about trying to find some hidden gems in the basketball circuit ... and with 32 players in camp, one has to hope at least one shines bright enough.
At least two players invited had to drop out: Lance Thomas, the ex-Dukie and Hornet/Pelican, and Richard Howell, a 6'9" PF who played last year in the Philippines.