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Starting to speculate about the draft

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NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Diego Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

At least now, the mock drafts are worth a look.

With the Nets controlling two late first round picks —Washington’s and Bostons’s — as well another one or two in the second round, we can speculate about what the Nets will do in late June. It won’t be like last year. Until the morning of the Draft, all Nets fans knew was that Brooklyn had the No. 55 pick. Sean Marks traded for the No. 20 in the first round and moved up 13 spots in the second.

Marks, in talking with beat writers after Thursday’s trade deadline, explained how the two picks gave the Nets flexibility.

"Now having two first round picks, it all helps. It helps give us another vehicle where were can be systematic with the draft and see what happens. We obviously value the draft or we wouldn’t have done it. It’s about being strategic and having two picks now gives us an opportunity to move up with those picks, you can hold them where you are if your players are there at the time. You’re using players and picks, there’s a lot of different things you can do there. We like the draft, so we’ll just see where we go."

By “the draft,” we think Marks specifically means the stacked 2017 pick. (The Nets would have been looking at the top pick if Billy King et al hadn’t agreed to swap picks this year as part of the Boston strangling, uh, massacre, uh, trade.)

Instead, they will have the Boston pick —the reward for the swap— and the Washington pick, acquired for Bojan Bogdanovic. Both should come in around No. 25, might even be back-to-back.

In the second round, the Nets have the Boston pick, at around 56. The Nets can get yet another pick, Indiana’s second rounder, if the Pacers finish out of the playoffs. And the Nets have bought seven second rounders in the Mikhail Prokhorov era, yielding Bogdanovic in 2011 and Isaiah Whitehead in 2015. They were taken at Nos. 31 and 42 respectively.

We don’t know if the Nets have yet made a list of players they like, their internal mock draft. Last year, they set their sights on Caris LeVert and Whitehead early on in the process.

Right now, Chad Ford of ESPN has the Nets penciled in for 7’0” big Zach Collins of Gonzaga with the Wizards pick and the 6’4” Texas point guard Andrew Jones with the Celtics pick. Both are 19-year-old freshmen.

Here’s why Ford thinks the Nets should take the two freshman. First Collins...

Brook Lopez has patrolled the paint for years, but, like most of Brooklyn's veterans, he is now expendable. Collins looks like a strong long-term replacement.

He can be a modern 5 who stretches the floor and protects the rim. He has been one of the most efficient players in college basketball and ranks fourth in the NCAA in PER. He might be a steal this low in the draft.

Then, Jones...

There are a lot of scouts who feel like Jones is a major sleeper.

He's an elite athlete, plays above the rim and has shown the ability to knock down the 3. He's really come along in Big 12 play. The Nets need to continue to swing for the fences with these late draft picks and hope they strike gold. Jones is a good bet down this low.

Draft Express has Brooklyn taking Donavan Mitchell, a 6’3” shooting guard out of Louisville, and Caleb Swanigan, a 6’9” forward from Purdue. In the second round, they have the Nets picking L.J Peaf, a 6’5” small forward out of Georgetown, at No. 56. That’s the swapped Boston pick.

And NBADraft.net has the Nets taking Luke Kennard, the 6’5” Duke sharpshooter, and Terrance Ferguson, the 6’7” shooting guard who decided to pass up college for Australia’s Adelaide 36ers. That’s interesting because Marks said last Thursday that he and the Nets will be looking not just at Europe for “under valued” prospects, but Australia as well.

Should the Pacers fall out of the playoffs —they’re currently seventh, three games ahead of the ninth place Heat— their second rounder would be transferred to the Nets, probably pick No. 47 or so. That’s where Kobi Simmons, the 6’5” Arizona point guard currently resides.

And as we noted, the Nets have bought seven picks over the last seven years. A mid-second rounder in this draft could easily command $3 million, the price driven up by the draft’s depth and a new CBA provision that now permits teams to carry up to 17 players, the last two D-League players who could play, in the Nets case, for both Brooklyn and Long Island.

Last year, Nets sent $3 million to the Jazz— along with the No. 55 pick— so they could take Whitehead with the Jazz second round pick. They have $3.425 million to play with this season after they used $75,000 to acquire K.J. McDaniels.

The Nets have built up their scouting corps this season, retaining some of the scouts Billy King hired, but added full-time as well as part-time and shared scouts. Marks hired Gianluca Pascucci, who had been Daryl Morey’s No. 2 at Houston, as director of global scouting based in Italy.

All of this will no doubt change and surprise, but it’s better than last year’s draft when as we noted, the Nets only had one pick, deep in the second round.