The Nets two draft picks were taken not because the Nets were looking for players to plug into their system immediately. It was best player available, regardless of position, and to a certain extent, that’s why Dzanan Musa, taken at 29, and Rodions Kurucs, taken at 40, are in different zip codes Thursday.
The Bosnian swingman with point guard skills is in Uniondale Thursday, playing at the Nassau Coliseum for Long Island while the Latvian big who looks a lot like a stretch 4 will be traveling from Phoenix to Denver and wearing black-and-white.
The Nets, still missing Treveon Graham and (maybe) DeMarre Carroll, need depth upfront. So they kept Kurucs on the NBA roster. On the other hand, Brooklyn is by no means short handed in the backcourt or on the wing. So they have the luxury of keeping Musa in Long Island where he will undoubtedly start his second game in the G League.
There’s a lot to like about the two players, but NBA coaches being NBA coaches are for the most part about winning with veteran talent. Few rookies, other than lottery picks like DeAndre Ayton or Luka Doncic, see consistent starting minutes.
At the moment, Kurucs is garnering the most attention. As noted, he fills a position of need and Musa got hurt in Bosnia just before training camp and was kept out of practice for a while.
As Mike Scotto points out, the Nets know more about Kurucs because he’s been on the floor more often starting with his performance vs. the Knicks in preseason when he had 13 points, four steals, four rebounds, and two assists in 12 minutes.
Kurucs described his reaction that night.
“It was really emotional for me because I didn’t play last year,” Kurucs said after the game. “It was a really good moment for me. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed every minute on the court.”
The Nets on the other hand know a lot more about Musa historically because Musa was the face of Cedevita in Croatia, playing 75 games last season in three leagues.
Kurucs played limited minutes in a total of 26 games last season, the result of a corporate decision by his team, FC Barcelona, to concentrate development efforts only on those players without NBA ambitions.
The Nets remain high on both.
“His game is really unique, which is why I think he’s a first-round draft pick,” Long Island’s coach, Will Weaver, told Tom Dowd of the Nets’ official site. “He’s massively versatile. At his size, his skill-set and vision are pretty unique. We’re trying to fit that into our team and help put him in position where he can be really successful, but every day you learn a new position where he can be really successful.”
The 19-year-old scored 23 points on 10-of-22 shooting with five rebounds in his G League debut.
“That guy, first of all, you want to talk about talent, from a talent standpoint, the speed, instincts, nose for the ball, athleticism — because that’s always a question with guys that come from Europe — are they going to be able to compete athletically?” Atkinson said. “He definitely is a much better athlete than I thought and defensively he has good instincts — and above all — I think he’s fearless. He just has no fear.”
Nets teammates said similar things about the rooks. As Spencer Dinwiddie said back at Summer League, the Nets brass is “extremely high” on both.
Despite their momentary separation, the two have become fast friends, each extolling the value of having another European rookie to rely on. And yes, they played against each in Europe, with Musa noting at the post-Draft press conference,
“My first game was against this guy with the national team. He kicked our ass,” Musa said. “He scored like 20, 30 points, dunked on us like eight times. So I remember this guy.”
Indeed, they have a lot in common. Musa left home at age 11 for a Bosnian sports school. Kurucs left at 13 in Latvia. And both admit they called home every night to cry to their mothers about being home sick.
Now, they’re attacking their dream from different ends of the U.S.
- From leaving home at 13 to getting drafted at 20, Rodions Kurucs is out to prove he belongs in Brooklyn - Michael Scotto - The Athletic New York
- LONG ISLAND NETS HAVE DZANAN MUSA IN LINEUP WITH BROOKLYN OUT WEST - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets