The Nets got busy towards the end of the NBA Draft last night, making three separate trades in the final 16 picks to acquire the rights to Markel Brown, Xavier Thames and Cory Jefferson. It has already been reported that all three will play on the team's summer league and that Brown has a fair chance at making the team's roster, but Thames and Jefferson are long shots.
All three are old for draft prospects, Jefferson turns 24 in December and Thames in January. Brown turns 23 in January.
Either way, we all need to know more about the Nets' three draftees, and we tell you what's to like and not like.
Markel Brown, 6'3" SG, Oklahoma State
Brown was called the most consistent Oklahoma State player by Oklahoma media this past season, which is quite an honor considering he was paired alongside the number six pick in the Draft Marcus Smart. Brown averaged more than 17 points per game in his senior season with the Cowboys, and also grabbed five rebounds per game, not bad for a 6'3" score-first guard. There is no denying that Brown is undersized to be an NBA shooting guard, but his great wingspan, 6'8.75", makes up for it, as does his vertical! He can be the two-guard in lineups with Shaun Livingston (if he returns), to balance the size in the backcourt.
Brown is an incredible athlete who can finish above the rim almost as well as anyone in this Draft. In a conference call with media Friday afternoon, he compared himself to Russell Westbrook. Pretty big comparison, but he can do this:
The Nets were lacking pure athleticism last season, with only Mason Plumlee having that Wow effect. So,Brown can be the shot of energy Brooklyn needs off the bench. Brown has also been on an upward trend in terms of production in his four years at Oklahoma State, continuing to improve his jump shot and adapting to become an efficient player in half-court sets. Brown hit on 40% of his jumpers in the half-court this past season, a fine number for a player who was a go-to threat for the Cowboys. Brown also hit on 38% of his three-point attempts, a career-high but a fairly average mark for a first rank college shooting guard. He can't be left open from beyond the arc.
Oklahoma State's spread out offensive system will make it easy for Brown to transition onto the floor in Brooklyn next season, for Jason Kidd advocates floor space and allowing players to get to where they want on the floor. The only problem is that Brown lacks great ball handling abilities. He isloose with the ball and doesn't have an elite first step to get by opponents, which is concerning considering when he does get past his defender he is almost a sure thing to score. Last season, only 28% of Brown's shots came around the rim, but he finished 66% of those opportunities.
Brown has the athleticism and frame to be a plus defender in the league, but the question is: will he put the effort in? Brown doesn't fight through screens often and lacks great awareness when playing off the ball. Considering his body and athleticism, Brown can grow into his defensive role.
Overall, Brown was a fine selection by the Nets, filling a need and giving them a player who has experience being a top threat on a prominent college team. Brown can soften the blow of Alan Anderson opting out of his contract.
Xavier Thames, 6'3" SG, San Diego State
Some, like NBADraft.net and DraftExpress, think Thames is a shooting guard, but the Nets believe that he is more of a point guard. But does the Aztec lacks the athleticism that Brown possesses. (Most do!) Thames is more of a spot-up shooter than an athlete. He was one of the most impressive shooters at the Pre-Draft Combine in Chicago last month, hitting 82% of his midrange jumpers in drills, and 64% of his three's in drills.
Thames was by far the best player on the floor at San Diego State (where Kawhi Leonard played two years ago) , averaging 17 points, three assists and nearly two steals in over 31 minutes of action, all team highs, this season. Thames also averaged 26 points for SDSU in their three NCAA Tournament games, including 25 vs. Arizona.
Thames biggest strength, as said before, is his shot-making abilities. He has a quick release and is an exceptional player in the pick-and-roll. Despite not being an explosive prospect, Thames got to the line more than eight times per 40 minutes last season, and is an 81% free-throw shooter.
It seems unclear that Thames' ability to hit jumpers will get him by in the NBA, though. He is a poor defender who lacks much aggression. It also doesn't help that he only has a 6'4" wingspan, making him even more of a tweener. Despite the contrasting beliefs on where best fits as an NBA player, there is no denying Thames ability to take care of the ball, as noted by HoopsHabit.
As evidenced by a turnover average that went down each year — from 2.5 turnovers in 33.8 minutes per game as a sophomore, to 1.8 turnovers in 28.7 minutes the following season, to just 1.4 turnovers in 31.3 minutes last year — Thames has learned to take care of the ball well.
If Thames can prove that he can become a more aggressive defender while maintaining his perimeter shooting, he has a shot at getting invited to training camp, but he may not have the physical tools to get him too far.
Cory Jefferson, 6'9" PF, Baylor
The Nets strive to get more athletic continued with the selection of Jefferson, one who was known to be an emphatic finisher and a capable rim protector.
Jefferson will be 24 next December, so his upside is limited, but he does have the potential to morph into a deep-bench player. Jefferson's athleticism made him a solid rebounder at Baylor, he averaged more than eight rebounds per game for the Bears, and gave him the ability to be a fine big man in the pick-and-roll who finished well around the basket in those situations. Jefferson also showed signs of a developing jumper from about 15 feet out, but could he fall in love with it too often?
Considering he weighs only 218 pounds, he needs to add weight or else he will be destroyed by big power forwards at the next level despite his athletic abilities. If he puts on some mass and becomes more focused at the defensive end, he can become a fine defender considering he showed signs as a great shot blocker at Baylor.
Jefferson's post game has its flaws, but around the basket, he can finish well. Still, he can't beat a big man off the dribble and depends on his right-hand hook shot often. He is willing to get physical, which is a good sign, considering the Nets can use some more toughness on the floor at times. Jefferson sets hard screens and always boxes out.
Overall, Jefferson may have too many holes in his game to become a quality NBA rotation player. He is wiry and lacks the focus to reach his potential on defense. If he can hit the weight room and become more engaged on defense, the physical tools are there for him to succeed. At pick 60, there was noting wrong with the Nets taking a flyer on him.
The summer league will be a showcase for all three players, particularly Brown. The Nets normally don't invite more than 18 or 19 players to training camp, so what they do in Orlando will be crucial to see where they will be playing in East Rutherford.
- Markel Brown ready for big test with Nets- Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Markel Brown: 'I see myself being like a Westbrook' - Rod Boone - Newsday
- Leaper Markel Brown hopes to be another Russell Westbrook - Rod Boone - Newsday
- New Net Markel Brown a 'Westbrook-type player' - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
Nets’ Markel Brown hopes to play like Westbrook - Brian Mahoney - AP
- Ex-Bear Jefferson’s patience pays off - John Werner - Waco Tribune