So what are the chances the Nets buy a draft pick late in the second round? It’s a possibility. Even with two second round picks (for now), the Nets could potentially snag another, just to grab the rights of a player that could develop down the line. Here are the final 5 prospects I’ll be covering. While some mock drafts have these players going undrafted, these guys could be two-way contract or Summer League roster candidates. In the second round, it’s low risk looks for upside. These players may not turn into the next Manu Ginobili, but they’d be successful even as 10th men on NBA rosters.
Arnoldas Kulboka, Wing, Capo D’Orlando (CMP: 54.50)
Is it bad that I think Kulboka looks like Tom Holland? Last year, I saw Kulboka as a slashing wing. After a growth spurt, he could be more of a combo forward. Kulboka runs the floor well for 6’10”, and shows decent ability as a line drive scorer. He’ll thrive in an open system where he can use his solid first step to get by defenders and set up his teammates in the pick and roll. He shows a decent ability to finish at the rim, despite not being explosive. Kulboka will most likely be relied on for his shooting, though. He has deep range, and has forecasted his ideal role in the NBA similar to Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic. Kulboka has a high, quick release, and can nail his jumper on the move or spotting up. Kulboka will use his shooting to open up drives and dishes on the move. Defensively, Kulboka tries hard off-ball, running around screens and helping when necessary.
Much like Peter Parker pre-radioactive spider bite, Kulboka is super skinny. He reportedly gained 15 pounds in the past year, but he still needs to bulk up. Kulboka will likely struggle defending any player one-on-one due to his weak body, so his future as a stretch-four is up in the air. He’s a bit streaky as a scorer, and has the tendency to go invisible in some games – as seen by his hot-cold performances in the NBA Global Camp. If Kulboka commits fully to becoming a stretch four, he’ll need to work on his physicality – both on the glass and finishing inside. His footwork on defense will need to improve as well, as he could be a bit late on closeouts due to his average footspeed.
Kulboka is another draft-and-stash candidate that could become a stud in Europe before stepping foot on an NBA court. He fills the Nets’ needs for perimeter shooting, and has ample size. The decision for him, as a pro, is whether to continue playing as a taller wing, or commit to playing as a stretch four. That could make or break his fate as an NBA player. His skillset is versatile enough where he could succeed in different roles as a pro. He’ll need a few years to develop, but the Nets have shown patience to develop players. Just make sure Kulboka doesn’t sign with Barcelona in the future.
Alize Johnson, Big, Missouri State (CMP: 55.50)
A prospect that transformed with a monster growth spurt, Johnson has an interesting skillset that could be useful on both ends. Johnson grew up playing point guard, as evidenced by his comfort initiating the offense after his own rebounds. He’ll facilitate both in the post and on the perimeter. As a scorer, Johnson could score most of his points being a dive man in pick and roll, where he has decent speed. Johnson showed decent post moves, but he may be a better fit as a roll or cut man. He’ll pick up some offensive rebounds, and can rack up putback points. His excellent motor on the boards is another area that could be appealing for NBA squads. Johnson has great technique rebounding to match his effort. Defensively, he can switch onto smaller players easily, moving his feet well on the perimeter. Defending bigs, Johnson plays physically, which makes up for his shorter stature.
Playing as a center, Johnson didn’t make much of an impact outside of rebounding. He wasn’t a great rim protector, lacking in length and intimidation. He averaged less than a block per game despite playing center for Missouri State. Johnson isn’t terribly bulky for his size either, which impacts his ability to grind down and defend sturdier bigs. He has a tendency to play a little too conservatively and without full intensity on the defensive end, which probably led to his subpar blocks and steals numbers. Johnson is also unproven as a shooter. After shooting 39% from the field his first season at Missouri State, that number dipped…a lot. His form is very smooth and guard-esque, so it may not be a completely lost cause to rehab his jumper mechanics.
One style of player that hasn’t really been explored by the Nets’ offense is a frontcourt facilitator. Yes, Trevor Booker would go coast-to-coast at times as a Net. But Johnson’s skill to set the table on offense and essentially run the offense could be valuable to the Nets, especially when trying to free up guards for shots. Johnson provides solid playmaking for a big, while also rebounding consistent effort. He also could thrive playing the pick and roll, where he could fully use his athletic tools. The Nets have already worked him out. Johnson could be an effective, more-skilled-than-you-expect big man for the Nets’ systems. He also has hair like Jimmy Butler.
Kostas Antetokounmpo, Big, Dayton (CMP: 57.75)
The second youngest of the Antetokounmpo family, Kostas put up less than stellar numbers in his year at Dayton University (Flyers Rule.) Antetokounmpo played mostly at center at Dayton, but still showed a diverse skillset. The way he ran the floor was…majestic for a 6’10” player. He takes long strides and glides to the rim, with most of his offense coming from point blank range. Antetokounmpo also was a willing screener and credible lob threat, and attempted some post ups. On the defensive end, his length and agility will be a major plus. In the NBA, he’ll likely play a more natural position of forward, so he’ll be able to slide out and defend the perimeter more.
Antetokounmpo is a raw prospect, still very much an unknown after a redshirt year and a quiet freshman season. He needs to get better at everything, basically. On the offensive end, he’ll need to become a better ballhandler – he’ll likely succeed as a slasher. He had a tendency to finish with his right hand at the rim in his film. Kostas shot less than 20% from three, but his shot mechanics look solid. He’ll need time to develop his shot. On defense, he may just need more reps to fully “get” the nuances of NBA defenses. Especially with his physical tools, understanding switches and off-ball defense could be a point of emphasis.
Will Kostas Antetokounmpo be the next Giannis? Who knows. Is he worth a pick in the second round? Emphatically, yes. I’m honestly surprised he’s not ranked on some mock drafts. His skillset is so moldable that he’d be worth at least a two-way contract. That’s the type of upside the Nets should bank on. Even if he only becomes a rim running forward on offense and a switch defender on defense, that’s great value for a second round pick. Especially with such a low cost, Antetokounmpo could pay dividends if developed properly.
Gary Clark, Big, Cincinnati (CMP: 59.75)
An undersized stretch four? More info, please. Clark is a player whose numbers didn’t improve much over his collegiate career, but his skillset expanded. He became an effective three-point shooter in his senior year, which is where part of his draft upside lies. His ability to drain jumpers off of the pick and pop is a premium skill. Clark plays with tenacity, setting solid screens, competing physically on the inside, and grinding for rebounds. He can be both a garbage man and perimeter threat as a pro. Clark is both an instinctive and physical rebounder, and he can steal boards from opponents simply due to his effort. Defensively, Clark’s effort shows in his on-court play and stats. He stole the ball and blocked shots both at solid clips, doing that without getting into too much foul trouble. Despite being undersized, he can play both bigger due to his strength, or smaller, due to his athleticism.
In order to be a successful pro, Clark will need to continue working on his jumper. His senior year perimeter shooting was a pretty small sample size (62 three-point attempts), so just spending more time in the gym will be key for him. Clark will also need to display more creativity scoring down low. Because of his smaller stature for a big, he’ll need to work on floaters to evade shot blockers and long wingspans. Defensively, Clark will almost always be overmatched down low because of his size. His effort could be a key to him getting roasted on the defensive end. He projects as a complementary player, so his upside is limited.
With Quincy Acy a free agent this summer, the Nets could be looking for a reserve that fills a similar role. Clark has a similar skillset, and could be a super undersized center that Kenny Atkinson can deploy. (Sorry, Timo.) Clark also comes from a defensive system that relies on switching, similar to the Nets’ idealized defensive scheme. Even if his shooting may take longer to fully crystalize, Clark’s effort and energy on both ends could be worth a look in the second round.
Billy Preston, Big, Igokea (CMP: 60.00)
After reading “Billy Preston” in every single NetsDaily article comment section for the past month, I decided to do my research. (Thanks guys.) Preston is a bit of an unknown, and a lower profile prospect compared to other “none-and-done” players. At 6’10”, Preston’s game mirrors a guard’s play. He’s a finesse player that can step out to the three-point line with comfort, and can face up in the post for smooth jumpers. Preston could be a decent pick and pop option due to his smooth shooting. He can attack the rim off of the bounce and finish with malice. He has a solid handle, and doesn’t really force the issue with the ball in his hands. He’s a solid rebounder, and isn’t afraid to be a one-man fast break, when needed. Preston is athletic and long, so that gives him potential on the defensive end.
The biggest issue with Preston is his defense (or lack thereof.) He played pretty aloof on the defensive end, often ball watching and not playing with 100% effort. That aloofness could be due to much of his game film coming against subpar competition – but the lack of effort is still concerning. He’ll likely get pushed around by other bigs to start his career on both ends, but he has time to work on his body if “stashed.” On the offensive end, Preston has a tendency to go into iso mode, killing the offensive flow when he’s looking for his. His overall playmaking ability may be questionable. He’s also the type of player to stand around if he doesn’t have the ball, so he may simply need more reps against high-level competition. His overall feel for the game is questionable because of the poor defense and iso-tendencies.
Preston is a very late second round prospect on mock drafts that include him. Despite being a former top-20 recruit, his frustrating 2017-2018 reflects his current low draft stock. But the Nets, of course lacking in talent, could buy low on Preston. The Nets are hoping his upside is more than just YouTube video hype, and have likely used his workouts in Brooklyn to fully assess the combo big in person. The talent is definitely there – but what’s lacking is the experience on a high level. He may not be an NBA ready player today, but if Billy Preston works on his defense and willingness to play team ball, his talent could pay dividends in the future.