After a long offseason filled with tons of activity, the Brooklyn Nets played their first preseason game on Thursday night. Preseason isn't about wins and losses — It’s about developing chemistry and getting ready for the regular season which starts on October 26th for the Nets versus the Celtics.
Still, the Nets will take the 101-94 win over the Detroit Pistons. The Nets roster is full of young players that are looking to improve and some even looking to make a spot on the regular season roster.
Thursday was our first chance to see some of these players perform in-game so it’s about first impressions — What was promising and what needs to be improved.
Chris McCullough played in only 24 games during his rookie season due to a torn ACL that he suffered at Syracuse. So this season is considered by many to be an extended rookie season for McCullough.
McCullough showed off his athleticism last season, but the 21-year-old is still clearly a work in progress. The 6’11” power forward likes taking three-point shots, and he hit 38 percent in his short time with the team.
McCullough scored 4 points and grabbed 4 rebounds on Thursday and he really didn't show much. He made a corner three which seems to be his favorite spot on the court.
McCullough had a few lazy moments defensively where it appeared he could've made more of an effort, but didn’t. He also struggled to finish down-low where he needs to score.
The Nets have high hopes for McCullough — Especially with player development guru Kenny Atkinson as his coach. McCullough is still young, at 21. So, there’s time for him to improve his game.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson became a fan favorite last year with his big smile, defensive prowess and hustle. Hollis-Jefferson’s defense is where it needs to be, but his offensive game needs plenty of work.
Last season, Hollis-Jefferson showed us at times that his mid-range jumper was not too shabby, but his confidence to shoot the ball seemed to be waning on Thursday.
Hollis-Jefferson, 21 needs to be confident in his offensive ability, because he was noticeably hesitant versus Detroit. The 6’7” forward has been putting in the work to improve his offense. That’s half the battle, the other half of the battle is believing in yourself that the hard work will pay off. Still, RHJ led the team in +/- with a whopping +20.
Joe Harris was signed to the Nets mainly for his ability to knock down three-pointers, which was an area that the Nets struggled in last year. Harris, 25, showed off that ability, making two of his four three-point shots and shooting 5-of-11 overall. What was most impressive from Harris was the other areas of his game that appeared to be better than expected.
Harris was active all over the court, but especially on the offensive glass. Harris collected four rebounds and three of them were offensive boards. He had 12 points in total and he showed that he has confidence in his shot. He is not afraid to pull the trigger and fire away.
Jorge Gutierrez, now 27, is back with the Nets and much like he did when he was with the team in 2014, he gives it everything he has when he’s on the court. Gutierrez was active defensively, he played hard and he made some nice passes.
Jason Kidd was a big fan of Gutierrez back when he was on the team in 2014 and the former Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year always gives 110 percent. Before the game, he told reporters he sees himself as one of the top defensive point guards in the NBA.
Anthony Bennett is the perfect example of a low-risk, high-reward signing. It’s only one game, but Bennett didn't make a good first impression. Bennett was 0-2 from three-point territory where he must excel.
Bennett made two layups and overall was 2-for-6 with 4 points in 12 minutes of action. Bennett had a plus-minus ratio of -6 and the 23-year-old has a lot of work to do.
This could be Bennett’s last chance to make it in the NBA and although the talent is there, Bennett needs to be able to translate that talent into production.
Justin Hamilton will be backing up Brook Lopez this season. Hamilton, 26, made a solid first impression in his Nets debut ... on offense.
The 7-footer played in 20 minutes while collecting nine points and five rebounds. Hamilton made a three-pointer, one of two he shot, which was a promising sign, but Hamilton’s defense needs to improve.
Hamilton had a few moments where he showed promise defensively, but it wasn't enough to prove that he can do it consistently.
Lastly and possibly the most impressive performance of the young players belonged to Yogi Ferrell.
The stats wont jump out at you — five points, two rebounds, one assist, but in the eyeball test, Ferrell excelled.
Ferrell, 23, was confident, active and did a great job of commanding the offense. Ferrell made some impressive passes and he showed that he can shoot the ball.
The one area where Ferrell struggled was his turnovers, three in only 12 minutes of action. Despite that, Ferrell was impressive and it’ll be interesting to see how much playing time he gets going forward. So far so good for the former Indiana Hoosiers stand-out.
After Game 1 of the six-game preseason it’s overreaction Friday. These are just my observations after one game. A lot can change and most likely will change as the preseason progresses. Five players need to be let go from the roster before the season starts so let the battle begin.
Egidijus Mockevicius and Beau Beech did not play. Bojan Bogdanovic and Isaiah Whitehead also did not see any action. The Nets Olympian only started practicing on Tuesday and the front office and coaching staff want to bring him along slowly. No word on why Whitehead, who dressed, didn’t play but last week, Sean Marks said he hyperextended his knee. It’s not considered serious.
And of course Caris LeVert, the Nets first round pick, is still rehabbing his foot following surgery at the end of March. He, too, dressed, but there’s no timetable yet on his return to action.