Next June, the Brooklyn Nets will have their own draft pick for the first time since the 2013 NBA Draft when they selected Mason Plumlee 22nd overall.
The lack of draft picks is the result of another event that same night, the famed Billy King Special with the Boston Celtics. We really don’t need to revisit that again, do we?
Since then, Sean Marks, King’s replacement, had to get creative, which has led to the acquisition of first round picks in each of the last two drafts.
2016 – Caris LeVert, 20th overall
2017 – Jarrett Allen, 22nd overall
In 2018, the Nets will have another first, the Toronto Raptors’ pick, part of the DeMarre Carroll-for-Justin Hamilton trade last summer. The Nets also nabbed Toronto’s second-round pick, in exchange for Hamilton, now the property of the Beijing Ducks in the Chinese Basketball Association.
In any event, the Nets have two draft picks next summer including their own first and the Knicks second ... although Marks’ history suggests they may wind up with more.
Who will be holding up Nets jerseys in the June 2019 press conference at HSS Training Center announcing the Nets picks? For one or more, the presser may be their second trip to the Nets’ shiny training facility in Sunset Park.
On Saturday, for the second straight year, Jordan Brand held an open (to scouts, executives and media) practice from the men and women’s teams, followed by Media Day. The practices included intrasquad scrimmages. The games were played at Barclays Center on Sunday.
For more than one of them, the 8th floor at 169 36th Street in Brooklyn brought some ooh’s and ah’s.
“This is my second time being in a practice facility – but this one is pretty cool because it’s on top of a building, it’s a pretty long court,” said the laid back 7’2” Oregon-bound Bol Bol, whose Findlay Prep High School team played at GEICO Nationals in Queens, New York in March and whose late father was Manute.
He wasn’t the only one.
Javonte Smart, a near 6-foot-5, 190-pound combo guard who’s headed to LSU, also took a liking to the facility, comparing it not to his high school gym, but his high school.
“I like the facility,” said Smart. “It’s big, it’s not normal, my high school is way smaller. It’s just a good experience. Not too many people get the opportunity to play against all the good talent and for the scouts to come out and watch us. And not too many people get the opportunity to play in an NBA gym and compete against the great guys I’m competing against.”
There a lot of NBA personnel on hand. The guys at HSS are likely one-and-done’s of the 2019 class, so there were scouts a plenty on hand. The 2019 class is not viewed as very good, so the best players are getting a lot of attention.
Shareef O’Neal, who will play UCLA, noticed. The son of Shaquille appeared well-mannered and articulate during media sessions in Brooklyn, spoke on the experience of playing in front of executives at HSS.
“When we walked in I saw all these people sitting on that one side. I said, ‘man … that’s a lot of people,’” said a smiling O’Neal, a power forward listed a few inches shorter than his dad at 6’9”. “They’re here to scout, don’t know what they’re writing on their papers, but it kind of worries some people. You miss a shot and you see them write down something and you’re like, ‘aw, damn, what did I do?’ It’s whatever. They do their job and they scout really well. Without scouts you just wouldn’t really know how players are doing.”
You’d think Shaq’s son would be used to it!
Among those present during the weekend was Nets’ executive Matt Riccardi, who appeared along the sideline as the boys were starting to practice. We didn’t see Sean Marks or Trajan Langdon, but they could have been there. Then on Sunday, D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jordan Brand Classic alumni (in 2013 and 2014, respectively), went to the game together.
The list of elite high school prospects who were available over the weekend also included Darius Bazley, who decommitted from Syracuse in favor of the NBA G-League (on a team to be determined later), and Duke-bound Zion Williamson, who did not play due to a wrist injury,
A couple of them, who played in high school band boxes, said the NBA regulation courts at HSS took some getting used to.
“I’ve played at the Sacramento Kings center and playing at Crossroads School (in Santa Monica, California) and doing that for my state championship game, that was a huge court,” said O’Neal. “This court was the same size. Running up and down, you get tired a couple of times – 94 feet, that’s a long way. And with the scrimmage we just did, running up and down, (sighs), that’s tiring. But you get used to it, but it’s fun.”
And soon it will become work.
The Most Valuable Player of the actual game, which ended as a 146-136 win for the ‘Home Team’, was Emmitt Williams, a 6’7” athletic power forward who will play with Javonte Smart at LSU in the fall. Williams shot 22-of-23 (!!) and netted a Jordan Brand record 44 points, mostly on dunks, though he showed off his range in the Nets facility on Saturday, hitting a few three’s in drills.
When we spoke to Williams, he hadn’t had the time to tour Brooklyn yet, but he definitely got the most of the experience, especially after not being named a McDonald’s All-American last month.
“Being here is a blessing,” he said, exuding that high level of excitement and intensity unique to high school players. “I know hundreds and thousands of kids dream of being here. When I was younger I remember seeing (Magic forward) Jonathan Isaac playing here. I never thought I would be in this game. I never thought a day in my life I would play in the Jordan Brand. That’s why I say it’s a blessing and that you should live every moment up.”
A year from now, the Nets will be finishing up another regular season and fans will be scouring mock drafts as they do. And Nets executives will be checking their notes written down in their own gym.