A year ago, the Nets knew they had no draft picks, but also knew they needed to add to their roster. After the Nets lost Shaun Livingston, Paul Pierce and Andray Blatche, and watched Boston take James Young with their pick, there was room for young players. So they made some moves. How'd they do?
Bojan Bogdanovic, 6'8" shooting guard.
Bogdanovic, who was 25 at the start of the season, was one of the NBA's top rookies. He was not among the seven first year players to get votes in the rookie of the year competition, but he played well throughout the season and into the post-season. Starting 28 games in the regular season and all six in the playoffs, the Croatian was the NBA's top scoring rookie in the post-season, at 10.3 points per game as well as its top three point shooter. In the first round, no rookie came close to him in minutes. In the regular season, he finished seventh in scoring at 9.0. He was also sixth in overall shooting, three point shooting and free throw shooting. He and Marcus Smart tied for most three pointers with 91.
His best game came at the end of the season when he scored 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-8 from downtown, against the Magic, the game that got the Nets info the playoffs. During the month of April, he averaged 14.4 points, shooting 52.8/44.4/100.
For a player who cost the Nets $1.3 million and their 2014 second round pick on Draft Night 2011, Bogdanovic turned into a bargain. H's $3.3 million mini-MLE salary was the equivalent of what the No. 5 pick in the 2014 Draft, Dante Exum, got paid. Exum may be the better long term prospect for what the Nets needed, Bogdanovic is a bargain. He's under contract the next two years at $3.4 million and $3.5 million.
Markel Brown, 6'3" shooting guard.
Brown was taken with the 44th pick in last year's draft. The Nets bought the pick for $1.1 million from the Timberwolves. Ironically, the pick was the same pick the Nets traded Minnesota in 2011 for Bogdanovic's rights. Brown actually started one more game in the regular season, 29, than Bogdanovic. He entered the starting lineup after the All-Star Break to give the Nets a more athletic lineup and the combination of him and Thaddeus Young made the Nets far more athletic. Often times, he was only in there for a few minutes before being relieved by Bogdanovic or Alan Anderson. By the post-season, he had given up his starting role to Bogdanovic and played only 10 minutes vs. Atlanta.
Overall, Brown averaged only 4.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16.6 minutes. He shot only 36.2 percent overall and 26.6 from deep. His scoring average was 29th among rookies, which considering he was taken at No. 44, wasn't bad. He finished 12th in steals among rookies. He was also probably top five in dunks, his 43.5" max vertical being on display a number of times.
His best game was his 17 point, four assist and four rebound effort in the close win over the Lakers in L.A. It was part of a three game stretch that gave fans hope that he was a steal. In those three games, he averaged 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds, shooting 14-of-27 overall and 4-of-11 from deep, all in 34 minutes per game.. Then, the next game, he put up goose eggs. That's the way it goes for a rookie. Still, his defense continued to improve, to the point where Lionel Hollins was overheard saying, "It looks like we got our Tony Allen."
His contract for next season is non-guaranteed until July 1. At that point, if he's still on the roster, he'll get $100,000. A month later, it will jump to $150,000 if he's still on the roster July 15. Then, $200,000 on September 1 and the full guarantee of $845,000 on September 29, the day before camp opens.
Cory Jefferson, 6'9" forward.
According to someone who was in the war room on Draft Night, Billy King thought he was done after the Nets bought the 44th pick, but Dmitry Razumov suggested the Nets buy the 59th and 60th pick. Although the Nets probably could have signed the two players taken, Xavier Thames and Cory Jefferson, after the Draft, the Nets chairman wanted their rights. The boss is always right and so the Nets spent $800,000 --$500,000 for Thames and $300,000 for Jefferson.
As Mr. Irrelevant, not much was expected from Jefferson. His contract was partially guaranteed but he did well for the last man drafted. Older than the average rookie at 24, he played in 50 games, averaging 10 minutes per game, although he played a total of only 20 minutes in the month of April, all of it in the regular season. He didn't get a minute in the playoffs. Opinion seemed to be divided on whether he is a power forward or a small forward. He's skinny and probably two weak to go up against NBA monsters at the 4 and his three point shooting isn't yet good enough for the 3.
His best game was either his only start, vs. Philadelphia, early in the season when he filled in admirably and shot 5-of-5 on his way to an 11-point, five-rebound effort, or his mid-season game vs. Phoenix when he had a double-double of 12 and 13 in 16 minutes. A fan favorite in part because of his 37.5" max vertical.
Like Brown, his deal is non-guaranteed. The amounts are a bit different. He will get $100,000 on July 1, then will be fully guaranteed, also at $845,000, on September 29.
Xavier Thames, 6'3" combo guard.
The 59th pick, Thames didn't play for the Nets, but the team retains his rights and have pushed his development. They first arranged for him to sign with Sevilla in Spain, but that didn't work out, in part because the team went bankrupt and in part because his coach wasn't playing him. So mid-season, he joined the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the D-League where he backed up Jordan Crawford at the 2 and got a reputation as a defensive stopper.
The Mountain West player of the year in 2014, Thames averaged 7.1 points in 18 D-League games, shooting 44.2 percent overall and 28 percent from deep.
He'll play in both the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues for the Nets and will be in training camp as well, he and Billy King have confirmed.
The Nets have two picks in the 2015 Draft, at Nos. 29 and 41, although that could change. They're not likely to be great. The two best players taken at No. 29 were both named Tony (or Toni): Parker and Kukoc and the best at No. 41 is probably Jodie Meeks. But if the Nets can find a way to add players like Bogdanovic and Brown, they'll do well.