Happy June, and with that we say happy NBA Draft. The Draft is at the end of the month and the Nets are picking twice, at 29 and 41. Workouts began this week and will continue likely up to Draft night on June 25. With that, let's see what the Draft experts think what Brooklyn is thinking now.
I've linked to each prospects Draft Express profile, just click on their name for a direct link.
The Nets could use athletic power forwards in this draft, and Draft Express sees the Nets focusing in on that need, taking two PF's in their most recent mock draft. McCullough would be an interesting pick for Brooklyn. He tore his ACL in January so he has an incredibly small sample size to judge him on. He definitely has the tools to succeed, or at the very least did before his injury. He is long, he has a 7'3" wingspan and can defend out to the perimeter, giving the Nets some much needed versatility on defense, but it is hard to look past his issues.
First, his injury could be off-putting as the Nets need contributors now, and while he may be 100% by training camp, he may not and the Nets may want to take someone without an injury history. Also, the Syracuse freshmen is very thin and may struggle in the NBA to contribute on the offensive end. While he does have a nice stroke, McCullough didn't take his game beyond the arc and got pushed around inside. He's young so he could develop, but it's easy to be uneasy about him at 29.
An updated DX mock has the Nets taking George De Paula, the 6'6" Greek point guard. Paula is a strong point guard and could fill some holes for Brooklyn, namely playmakers and defenders, but he is incredibly raw, lacking a true three-point shot at this stage in his career. At pick 41, the Nets could take a chance on a prospect like the lanky Greek, who just turned 19 last month, but that would hinge on who they take in the first round. With Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack's future in question, would they want a project point guard who would need to give spot minutes?
Martin is an intriguing option for the Nets due to his talent and upside. He could come in and either wow the Nets and earn the backup power forward spot, or he could fail to develop on his raw game and struggle to crack the rotation.
There is no denying Martin is a gifted basketball player, he could handle the ball some at 6'9" and shoot too, but he is inconsistent and needs to refine his shooting mechanics. Martin could put the ball down on the floor and take it to the rim, helping his versatile skill set. It might be nice to pair him with the Nets centers ... if not immediately. However, can a team like the Nets who are trying to develop a defensive identity take a shot on a minus defender like Martin? Not sure, but Martin could give the Nets their scoring edge off the bench. As Ford notes, Martin may be a "tweener" at the next level, which could scare some teams (maybe the Nets) away from him.
What's maybe more interesting in Ford's mock is that Jerian Grant has now dropped to 22, Delon Wright has moved up to 21 and R.J. Hunter, the Georgia State bomber, is still on his roller coaster. now at 23. Joseph Young, a hot shooting PG out of Oregon who the Nets will work out, is now at 27.
Chris Mannix, Sports Illustrated: No. 29: Nets select Chris McCullough
Mannix also says that the Nets take McCullough. Mannix says, "If he lives up to his potential, he could be a steal here." We noted the doubts about McCullough above, and the Nets will have to do their due diligence here. If the team is going to try and remain competitive for a postseason berth next season—it's easier said than done—they are going to need a player who could come in and contribute from day one. Could McCullough, off of a knee injury that ended his season, be that guy? Again, not so sure.
Upshaw has a ton of red flags, which Vecenie notes in his blurb, but there is no denying his talent. Upshaw was one of the main attractions at the Draft Combine, posting some insane measurements in Chicago. Upshaw has a near 7'6" wingspan and a 9'5" standing reach, and could give the Nets some frontcourt depth. Upshaw is a low post player and could give the Nets flexibility moving forward with the future of Mason Plumlee in question, it seems.
Billy King has taken chances on guys that have scared off other teams including Gerald Green and most recently Andray Blatche, but when it comes to the Draft, King tends to lean on senior leaders, and Upshaw doesn't fit the bill.
As for the Nets second round pick, Milutinov would likely be a draft-and-stash candidate. Another center at 7 feet tall, Milutinov can help beef up the Nets frontcourt and give them an aggressive player on the offensive glass in the future. The big man averaged nearly four offensive rebounds per game this season and showed a deft touch around the paint. Milutinov would need to put on some weight. He currently checks in at just 220 pounds according to DX, but he could be a draft-and-stash prospect for Brooklyn, who has shown a willingness to do so in the past.
Besides having one of the best names in the Draft, Luwawu could be a great pick for Brooklyn if he takes one more year to develop, and continues to refine his offensive game, mainly from three.
Luwawu has a very manageable buyout from his French team making him an attractive option, but the Nets may want to wait a year to bring him over so he can continue to grow. Luwawu just turned 20 last month and has the body to defend all wing players at the next level. He has good court vision for a wing, which makes it easy to plug him on any roster. Luwawu just went off for 25 Sunday on 12 shots in the French Pro B playoffs, a career high. Problem is that his Europe agent is reportedly recommending that without a first round guarantee, Luwawu will drop out of the draft by the early entry deadline on June 15.
It could be risky for the Nets to use their first pick on a draft-and-a-stash possibility, but Luwawu can play and could be the next best European prospect after Mario Hezonja and Kristaps Porzingis.
Now, to give my own personal touch, who I think the Nets should take at No. 29 and No. 41:
I wasn't sure if Wright was the pick for the Nets when I began looking over prospects but Wright is a great fit for the Nets. Wright improved all four of his years at the college level and is an easy player to work with. A 6'6" point guard, Wright can play with a lot of different Nets players while not messing up floor spacing. He has an emerging three-point shot, shooting 35% from three at Utah last season and is a willing passer. The comparison to Shaun Livingston is obvious due to their size, but Wright is more of a well-rounded player. Wright can play beyond the arc and be a threat to hit from outside. However, Wright is 23 already so the Nets already know what they are going to get from him, but I think that for a team that can't trust Deron Williams anymore, Wright fills a glaring hole.
For their second selection, the Nets could go in a bunch of different directions, a lot will depend on who is on the board, but J.P. Tokoto needs to be at the top of their board. Brooklyn is in desperate need of athletes and Tokoto can fill a need of a wing stopper. Tokoto does play similarly to Markel Brown, a freakish athlete who can defend, but can't shoot very well, but Tokoto is bigger, can guard NBA small forwards and can pass very well. Tokoto improved greatly over his three years at North Carolina and has a nose for the ball, averaging more than a steal per game last season. He might be gone at 41, but Tokoto would be a fantastic choice for a Nets team that really needs athlete's on the wing.
Brooklyn could also look at Luwawu at 41, if he keeps his name in and is around there, but another name to keep an eye on is Jarell Martin, who Ford mentioned in his mock. His range is all over the place, but he is an offensively gifted forward out of LSU who has a lot of upside.
And of course, the Nets are likely to come out of the draft with a much different set of pick than they go in. This is Billy King's fifth draft. In only one, 2013 when they had other things to deal with, did they not make a move --didn't trade up, buy a pick up or both. On June 25, we should also grab a beer and make some popcorn and settle in for a long night.