Who fits the mold? Today, I’ll be covering players that could potentially fit like a glove in the Nets’ current system. In part 1, there are two big, versatile ball handlers that could thrive in the Nets’ “everybody gets to be point guard” system. Two players fit the mold of pure scorers – a skill the Nets need – despite their blistering offense. A final player hails from Brooklyn and could be a multi-positional defensive stopper. Of course, no matter what the position, talent will likely take precedent over any situational fit. As a team that won 28 games last season and 20 the year before, Brooklyn needs to continue adding talent, rather than molding the complementary pieces of a team for next decade.
Kevin Knox, Wing, Kentucky (CMP: 14.25)
Another player on the long list of Kentucky one-and-done players, Knox’s potentially top-tier skill is his scoring. Likely a combo forward as an NBA player at his stature, Knox excels creating for himself. He operates well from any point on the floor, with a mantequilla smooth stroke from the perimeter and soft touch finishing on the interior. Knox can score in isolation, lulling defenders to sleep with rhythmic dribbles either for a pullup or a strong drive. He can also score within the team context as well, as a catch and shoot threat as well as attacking closeouts. On the defensive end, Knox’s length should be solid enough to guard at least three positions adequately. He may be the type of player that excels more as a pro defender rather than a collegiate one.
Much like his Kentucky teammate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the calm with which Knox plays at also can be his detriment. On the offensive end, Knox sometimes would settle for midrange jumpers, rather than opting to take shots from Moreyland. That’s a no-go for the Nets’ system. As a smoother player, Knox will need to get stronger to truly be a go-to scorer, as his athleticism isn’t explosive. That rings especially true if he plays as a 4 for as a pro. He’ll be competing against stronger, leaner players, and he’ll need to be a better rebounder. As a defender, Knox has the tools, but he’ll really need to dial in if he wants to defend at a high level. He didn’t really show much as a defender off-ball and his ability to defend the pick and roll could be a wildcard.
The Nets, despite the blistering pace they play at, are sorely lacking a go-to scorer on the wings. Yes, D’Angelo Russell can be that go-to guy in the backcourt, but in the words of “Boys Like Girls,” two is better than one. Knox has the ability to score whenever he wants. The Nets need that, and would benefit from a player that could score and also defend multiple positions competently. Knox fills that role. But of course, that’s why he’s a lottery level talent. In the past, Sean Marks has suggested that he could move up in the draft if he has a specific target. Is Kevin Knox that somebody?
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Guard, Kentucky (CMP: 14.75)
A 6’6” point guard that thrives on defense and has a developing jumper? We’ll take 5 of those, please. Gilgeous-Alexander has a good chance of being the first Kentucky player called on draft night. Along with his lanky frame and plus-wingspan, the Kentucky freshman is a playmaker first and foremost. He’s pretty solid at finding teammates on the move or making the extra pass. He plays under control, rather than with overpowering speed or flashy ballhandling moves. As a pro, Gilgeous-Alexander will likely thrive running pick and roll, where he’s strong enough to get to the rim if he needs to, or crafty enough to pull up or launch a teardrop (I’ve launched many) from within the free throw line. Gilgeous-Alexander also is a decent standstill shooter. SGA’s defense is likely a big factor in his lottery level ranking. With a solid feel, Gilgeous-Alexander reacts quickly to plays on and off ball. His wingspan is perfect for position-less defensive schemes, and he’s proven to play the passing lanes pretty well.
Gilgeous-Alexander sounds like Luka Doncic with better defense after that last paragraph, doesn’t he? On offense, Gilgeous-Alexander is a decent, but not great shooter. His shot form is a little slow, and he only started to show comfort shooting off the dribble along the perimeter at the end of the season. He shot a small sample size of 57 threes at Kentucky, and will need to show consistency from the NBA 3 as a pro. While he plays as a ballhandler, Gilgeous-Alexander often struggles with decision making, sometimes waiting a little too long to start the offensive groove, and other times throwing errant passes. While he has a solid frame, Gilgeous-Alexander is a solid athlete, rather than a great one. He may struggle defending off ball against quicker guards coming off of screens.
A 6’6” point guard that plays calm and smart on both ends? Make your comparisons…now. At this point, (not a point guard pun), Gilgeous-Alexander is a top-20 pick across most mock drafts. The Nets – if the rumors are true – are in the market for moving up in the draft. Gilgeous-Alexander is a player the Nets could be coveting, with his game fitting right into Brooklyn’s ideals for a point guard. Although the Nets’ backcourt is crowded, Gilgeous-Alexander is a player that could grow with the rest of the Nets’ young core, either as a lead guard or a combo secondary playmaker.
Troy Brown, Wing, Oregon (CMP: 19.75)
A player that could also be a “high upside” pick, Brown displays the potential to be a solid pro. The key word for Brown is “versatility.” Drawing a lot of comparisons to Evan Turner (that’s not necessarily a bad thing), Brown has point guard skills with a forward’s frame. He does a little bit of everything. Brown is sneaky off-ball, finding crevices and cutting to the rim at opportune times. He’s crafty AND strong when going to the rim, showing great body coordination for his frame. But Brown’s sexiest offensive asset is his passing. One of the better playmakers in the draft, Brown can dazzle with his passes, but also can simplify the game for his teammates. His vision is uncanny for any player regardless of position. On the defensive end, Brown’s solid feel shines through as well. He has a good motor and makes good reads on and off-ball. He grabbed a solid amount of rebounds for a playmaker. Brown also excelled defending on-ball, traversing the pick and roll well and sometimes picking up on ball steals.
Brown’s biggest flaw is his lack of shooting prowess. While his form looks passable, the consistency of his mechanics will be a big gripe for NBA teams looking to draft the 18-year old. His poor shooting is an issue both off the dribble and on the catch as well. Athletically, Brown isn’t terribly explosive, relying on his smarts more than his first step. That may also leak into his defensive potential as well, where he may not be truly equipped to defend either backcourt position super well. His lack of pop could pose an issue getting to the rim if his jumper never develops. That uncorks a whole different issue with Brown – passivity. It’s Brown’s skillset that’s intriguing, rather than his actual production. Brown wasn’t a dominant scorer or passer, scoring over 20 points only twice, and never posting a double digit assist game.
Troy Brown’s profile is that of a versatile wing player that can be a superb, trusty role player. He may never be a truly dominant player, but rather the pacemaker of a team that sets the tone on both ends. That’s okay. If drafted by the Nets, he may need some time working with the coaching staff to retool his jumper. It’s worked for some players. Brown could fit in with the Nets’ guards, versatile enough to possibly play point power forward (if we’re still doing the positions thing.) A probable lotto pick, Brooklyn will likely need to move up to the late teens to have a shot at the player in his late teens (that was the equivalent of a dad joke).
Dzanan Musa, Wing, KK Cedevita (CMP: 22.25)
I would love to see Dzanan Musa’s future NBA highlights package set to “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins. Musa is a scorer through and through, not afraid of pulling up from anywhere on the floor or challenging at the rim. He excels at creating shots, with a consistent-looking jumper and a creative handle to get by defenders. Musa’s off-the-dribble game has some staccato, which could fool any defender regardless of agility. Going to the rim, Musa can finish with either hand with accurate floaters, slick finger rolls, and change-of-pace Eurosteps. He’s pretty solid at reading defenses, able to make the right pass when he’s not looking to score. While he may have a smaller on-ball role in the NBA, Musa may excel cutting off ball and running through screens to set up catch and shoot or other attacking opportunities. Defensively, Musa isn’t an elite athlete, but he’s economical with his movement, with strong footwork going around screens and a solid ability to read plays. He’s also opportunistic generating deflections and causing loose balls on the defensive end as well.
If Musa played collegiately, he’d be compared to other score first players like Trae Young and Colin Sexton. Musa excelled in a high usage role, and that may not fly in an NBA system. He had a really bad tendency to ball stop at times, taking difficult shots despite playing on a decent team. That could be a reason for his lower than expected three-point shooting percentage this past year. Another factor in his poor shooting percentage could be his shot release. Against NBA-caliber defenders, he may need to shorten the motion of his release. Musa may not be a plus-defender in the NBA simply due to his lean frame. Off-ball, he also seemed to show little interest. He had issues defending off-ball movement, and his positioning simply showed a lack of attention in preventing easy baskets. Those limitations could cap him as a bench player, rather than a surefire starter.
Previously mocked as a top-20 pick, Musa has fallen to the 20’s in several mock drafts. Elie Okobo now seems likely to be the second International player taken in this year’s draft after Luka Doncic. That’s not an attack on Musa though – Okobo seems to have a higher ceiling. But at 29 (or sooner), Dzanan Musa would be a solid pickup. His scoring ability, due to his shooting and elusiveness, could translate to the NBA quickly. If drafted by the Brooklyn Nets, Musa will likely have a green light from the perimeter all the time. He has the ability to score at will. If he’s able to reign in his shot selection, Musa could be a ballsy, hot streak scorer for Brooklyn.
Rawle Alkins, Guard, Arizona (CMP: 38.00)
Strong, skilled, and tough, Alkins is the type of player that will be available late in the first round and in the early second, but could likely make an impact right away. Alkins plays with a New York City scoring instinct, what I call a “strong ability to get to the cup.” Alkins won’t blow people away with his athleticism, but he uses a variety of moves – floaters, step-throughs, Eurosteps, step backs, and change of hands – to score inside. While he shot a solid percentage from the perimeter in his two seasons at Arizona, Alkins will likely be more than just a three-point threat. He can handle ball handling responsibilities in spurts, and can power through defenders as well. On the defensive end, Alkins really competes on-ball. He really puts a strong effort defending opponents of all shapes and skillsets, due to his motor and his physical tools. He’ll be the type of player that would defend an opponent’s star player, stepping up on the defensive end.
As a shooter, Alkins shoots a little bit flat, which could hinder him when shooting over taller defenders on closeouts. While he has the ability to score and power his way past defenders, he can be a little too lackadaisical. He often settles for floaters and pull-ups when he can probably get to the rim to score at least draw a foul. He committed slightly more turnovers than assists this past season, often showing a tendency to dribble into traffic and not reading the defense. As an off-ball defender, Alkins does not show as high of an effort he does on-ball. He’s often left misreading cutters and off-ball screens, watching the ball too much.
Alkins has a projectable skillset – reliable jump shooter and consistent defender. He’s versatile enough to play on the Nets as a multi-positional defender, and player that could thrive with Brooklyn’s spacing. In the Nets’ small-ball system, Alkins could play three positions and match up with any of the Nets’ lead ballhandlers. 3-and-D may be too narrow of a term for his potential role. This is probably the only direct player comparison I’ll make, but Alkins reminds me of a high-end Sean Kilpatrick – a player that won’t annihilate defenders with athleticism, but is adept at scoring inside and outside. Alkins is also pretty adept at marketing himself, with his #SAVAGELIFE mantra probably my favorite player quirk this year. At 29, 40, and 45, Alkins could be a reliable system fit. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a Brooklyn native, too.
Up next: Fitting the Mold, Part 2