The Brooklyn Nets have a lot of holes on their roster. There is no getting around that. The Nets can begin to rebuild their lineup and hide some of their weaknesses through the Draft. Brooklyn has some issues that are more glaring than others. In a relatively deep draft with NBA-ready talent still available in the 20's -- Brooklyn is picking 29th in the first round -- the Nets can acquire prospects that can help them reconstruct their roster. So who and what should the Nets target in the Draft this year? Here you go:
We all know about Deron Williams at this point so we won't get into the gory details, but if the Nets are going to ride out his contract, they need a player to come off the bench and reduce his minutes. Jarrett Jack did that last season. The two played more than 650 minutes side-by-side last season, so the Nets need to have a deep point guard stable if they want to continue doing that ... or they plan to move Jack. There's little indication Darius Morris is the guy. Morris scored exactly four points in 49 minutes between February 23 and season's end.
Williams did a fine job as a facilitator last season for all the flack he gets while Jack is more of a gunner. The Nets could use a player that has great court vision and can move the ball around well, not one that needs to get up shots to meet optimal potential. Also, the Nets need a point guard who can lock down on the defensive end. Williams and Jack are both minus defenders and really hurt the team at times due to their slow lateral movement and their habit of running right into screens.
That's a lot to ask for a player picked next to last in the first round. That said...
Delon Wright fits the mold for the Nets at 29 (currently projected to go 30 to the Warriors by DX). He is a lanky point guard at 6'5" and a great defender who has a real feel for the game. Wright has improved his game significantly throughout college and has a lot of the same tools as Shaun Livingston, who became a major weapon for Brooklyn two seasons ago. Wright is a fine passer who can give the Nets a unique weapon off the bench. One would think he could play alongside both of the current Nets' point guards.
There are other guards in this draft, but they are out of the Nets' reach right now. Jerian Grant is a fantastic player who the Nets could really use, a mix of scoring and facilitating, a true point guard at heart. Cameron Payne seems to be cut from the same cloth as Jack, a score-first player who can get as hot as anyone. However, both seem destined to be gone by 29. Tyus Jones would also be the pick for Brooklyn if he was available, but after his run in the NCAA tournament, he won't be around. The Nets interviewed at least two of the top point guards, Wright and Grant, as well as George Lucas de Paula of Brazil and Oregon's Joseph Young, at the Pre-Draft Combine.
The Nets will try to move up and, truth be told, if they do, they're likely to use a higher pick on a point guard. It is the priority. Can they?
The Nets, even though they say they can play otherwise, play a slow brand of basketball that isn't keeping up with the game's changing culture. At times there was motion on the floor and some nice cuts, but the Nets often reverted to isolation basketball and simple actions. It worked out at the end of the season for the club as Brook Lopez turned into the Terminator and wing players could dump the ball into him, but will that do for a team that is striving to contend? Brooklyn needs a hard-nosed player that can take it to the rim but also keep the paint open for Lopez, assuming the Nets opt to build around him (it seems like it).
Joe Johnson is reaching the end of his prime, and with a ton of minutes on his legs, he is going to be relegated to lower usage. Bojan Bogdanovic is a spot-up shooter and valuable to the team but he is not a threat to bully defenders on the wing like Johnson did in the past. That is why the Nets need to get a slasher. That means an athlete that can take the ball from the three-point line to the rim, but keep the floor spaced. Alan Anderson is arguably that guy right now for Brooklyn, but he may not be on the roster next season. The Nets have some athletes on the roster, but they need to keep looking for more if a slow center is going to be the centerpiece. Brooklyn needs to counteract that with athleticism.
Kevon Looney has the tools to be this kind of player, a long 6'9" forward who is still 18, but he is going to be gone by 29. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has the athleticism to be a 3-and-D player, but he may be off the board as well. Still, the Nets spoke with him at the Combine. Justin Anderson also fits the bill of Hollis-Jefferson, both are slated to go in the early 20's by DraftExpress.
One player who may be there for Brooklyn is Christian Wood out of UNLV. At 6'11" and with a slender frame, Wood can be the power forward backing up Thaddeus Young (assuming he is back) that the Nets lacked last season. Wood can play out to the three-point line and move off the ball. He has a soft touch and plays above the rim. Wood has his flaws on the defensive end, mainly poor fundamentals, but if the Nets are willing to work with him, he is only 19, they can get a steal at 29. DX has him going 26 to the Spurs, so he's in the ballpark.
Two other names mentioned for the Nets, Chris McCollough of Syracuse, who's 6'11", and Cliff Alexander of Kansas,who's 6'9", have pluses and minuses. McCollough has a ton of potential, but also a torn ACL. Chances of another knee episode are high, unfortunately, and his recovery may limit his production next season. Alexander looks the part, but his basketball IQ is not high, and that's being kind. DX currently has the Nets taking the two of them.
The Nets frontcourt was in dire need of some help by the end of last season. Mason Plumlee's play fell off a cliff and Lionel Hollins had to play Joe Johnson at the 4 far too often down the stretch. Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez are both solid starters and should be for the future. Plumlee may have hit his ceiling as a backup center. That is why the Nets should target a big in this draft. They could go in any direction, really, but with Plumlee and Lopez in the fold, the Nets should look for a power forward who can fight down low but not clog up the paint.
Christian Wood and others were mentioned above when we dealt with the Nets lack of athleticism and potential. What about bigger guys who are already filled out and can fight down low and can protect the rim.
Though he may not be the ideal pick at 29, the Nets could look at LSU prospect Jordan Mickey at No. 41. Mickey is a power forward at 6'8", but has a great 7'3" wingspan making him a shot blocker but also a great pick-and-roll defender due to his lateral quickness. He is really raw on the offensive end due to his lack of true size at the four position and lack of a jump shot, but his defense would be welcomed to Brooklyn. He could play alongside both of the Nets' centers and take some pressure off them as he can be a weakside shot blocker.
Robert Upshaw has a ton of red-flags off the court, but there is no denying his size. At 7' and nearly a 7'6" wingspan, Upshaw is a rim protector and his ability to finish around the rim could make him an asset on offense. He could land anywhere from the 20's, based on talent, to the 40's even later, based on his off-court issues. Anyone who knows Billy King knows he's willing to take chances on players who have issues -- ask Gerald Green or Andray Blatche -- but he weighs those decisions heavily and two-time losers get dumped. Ask Blatche. You don't forget those years with Allen Iverson so easily.
It is still very early in the process, but these are some of the issues that the Nets certainly need to address, and there are some of the names that can help Brooklyn rise back up the Eastern Conference standings.