This portion of the safe bets can also fall under the category of “NetsDaily favorites.” Grayson Allen and Moritz Wagner are two players Nets fans have been talking about for months, maybe years. The other three, Jerome Robinson, Devonte Graham, and Jalen Brunson, all are players that can fill up scoreboards, and possibly lead second units. These are late first and second round prospects that all have one thing in common: they can all shoot the long ball. The “safe bet” for all of these guys is scoring. Athleticism and size are areas where each of these players will likely receive criticism from scouts, fans, and overanalyzing NBA bloggers.
Jerome Robinson, Guard, Boston College (CMP: 28.00)
If I grouped all of the prospects I’m covering into skillsets, Robinson would definitely go under “bucket getters.” Playing at Boston College, Robinson was a pure scoring combo guard. He possesses good size for a combo prospect at 6’7”. He plays with urgency, with the ability to pull up from anywhere on the floor. (This truly is the Stephen Curry generation.) Robinson’s shot form is impeccable, with the ability to score off of the catch, on the move, or straight up in your man’s face. He’s pretty efficient with his dribbles when he wants to, always finding a spot from which to score or dish. While he projects more as a two guard, Robinson is decent running pick and roll and finding his teammates when he’s not looking for his own shot. While not an eye-popping defender, Robinson has decent instincts defending off ball, and could be a good fit defending smaller point guards.
As Boston College’s leading scorer, Robinson faced many issues seen by other ball dominant guards. He often would have tunnel vision as a scorer, often forcing bad shots or errant passes when defenses would force him to pick up his dribble. He tended to be a little streaky as well. As a ballhandler, Robinson would often dribble into traffic – a source of his 2.74 turnovers per game. A smooth scorer rather than a powerful one, Robinson will likely need to add floaters or some elusiveness to his game in order to avoid getting blocked or beat in a chase to the rim. On defense, Robinson is a bit lax (not lacrosse, but relaxed) at times. He’ll need to work on fighting around screens and recognizing cuts in order to be a serviceable defender.
Robinson has size and scoring ability for a combo guard. He can shoot, create, and can handle the ball a little. Right now, Robinson is all over the place on different mocks. He’s a candidate to be selected by the Nets at 29, and would be a solid sleeper choice. His ability to put points on the board will never go out of style, and his pull-up game fits in well with the perimeter oriented NBA. Robinson is a safe bet for consistent scoring and secondary playmaking.
Jalen Brunson, Guard, Villanova (CMP: 32.75)
Jalen Brunson is super steady. He fills all the requirements for an “Ersan Ilyasova All Star.” (That’s my term for role players/bench guys that always seem to have big games against the Nets.) The son of a player and coach (Rick), Brunson plays with poise. He seemingly excels at everything at the point guard spot. He can score anywhere on the floor, using his strong body and decent speed to create angles. (GOTTA HIT THEM ANGLES.) He has a smooth lefty release that he’s comfortable with shooting off the dribble or off a catch. Brunson is also a prototypical game manager, the type of player that can calm down a team when things get a little too hectic. On the defensive end, Brunson may be undersized, but his solid feel and anticipation will aid him as a team defender. He’s not an exclamation point defender, but his understanding of the game will aid his team in preventing breakdowns.
Brunson’s biggest flaw is that he’s a safe bet. (You could probably say that for everyone here.) An already refined player, Brunson may not have much to improve on, that he can control. Standing 6’2” with a 6’4” wingspan, Brunson’s upside is limited by the current era. Teams will likely force him onto larger players. That could limit him to only playing the point guard spot. He isn’t terribly explosive, with an average first step. That lack of explosion could hamper his scoring at the next level, where he could be a step too slow to blow by defenders.
Let’s face it. Brunson is a safe, solid pick for the late first and early second round. While he may not have much upside, he’ll probably be a solid rotation piece in the NBA. But for the Nets, Brunson may not fill their “long and athletic” vibe as a perimeter player. That’s why Yogi Ferrell was ultimately let go. Still, picking the consensus National Player of the Year and a two-time NCAA champion is never a bad pick. That’s a winner.
Moritz Wagner, Big, Michigan (CMP: 35.50)
What’s the opposite of a sleeper pick? A jittery, excited, schoolboy crush pick? A neon flashing-lights-in-your-face pick? Wagner is that. The Michigan junior has been linked to the Nets since last year, and could be a prospect worth taking at 29, 40, or 45. Wagner’s most marketable skill as a pro is his stretch skillset – modeling his game after Dirk Nowitzki. Not just a standstill shooter, Wagner can attack defenses on slick drives and is fairly nimble on the perimeter diving off screens. Along with his shooting prowess, he has true center size and can compete on the interior as well. Wagner has NBA ready offensive tools. On the defensive end, Wagner’s effort shines. He possesses solid footwork and anticipation, which could help him defending more perimeter oriented bigs. Wagner also improved as a rebounder in his third year at Michigan.
A few years ago, Wagner would have lottery pick potential. But his lack of upside and physical attributes have brought his draft stock down. Averaging more steals (0.97) than blocks (0.51) is a troubling sign, especially for a (near) 7-footer. Wagner does a decent job using his frame as a roadblock, but may never be an adequate rim protector. Wagner also had a tendency to foul at a bit of a higher rate (3.08 in 27.6 minutes). This indicates a lack of discipline on both ends, committing offensive fouls and biting on fakes on defense. Due to the finesse of his offensive game, Wagner plays stylistically like a forward, but physically is a center. If he becomes a starter, he’ll need to add some strength to compete against bulkier, stronger centers. Much of the doubt about Wagner’s game isn’t based on him specifically, but more about his role in the NBA landscape.
The Nets drafting Wagner wouldn’t be surprising. His Nets connections have been mentioned before. Wagner’s shooting and ability to attack are very Nets-y skills. His size paired with his skillset would be ideal for a team that played a whole bunch of 6’7” dudes at center last season. One underrated aspect of Wagner’s profile is his rate of improvement. After withdrawing from last year’s draft, Wagner improved on his former flaws. He averaged nearly 3 more rebounds per game as a junior compared to his sophomore season. His defensive rating went from 100.7 to 92.7 (defensive rating is like a golf score). That shows a dedication to bettering his game. As a (somewhat) older prospect, an upward trend could show a higher ceiling than expected. Wagner would fit the Nets’ system well, and could contribute from Day 1.
Grayson Allen, Guard, Duke (CMP: 39.5)
It’s bad boy for life. Grayson Allen has his fair share of admirers (hello, Net Income) and detractors. Despite this, he has the track record of a player that could succeed in the NBA. Obviously, Allen’s shooting could be his calling card. (Calling cards aren’t actually a thing anymore in real life.) He has a quick, compact shot that is a carbon copy of the last. (Carbon copies are still a thing in real life if you’ve ever taken a chemistry lab.) Aside from that, Allen is comfortable playing the role of secondary ballhandler, where he shines as a playmaker when driving to the rim. He can run the pick-and-roll with comfort, and is pretty accurate kicking out to shooters as well. On the defensive end, Allen’s biggest attribute is his effort, where he often plays the passing lanes to grab steals. Allen’s athleticism as a leaper and agility could shed light on some untapped potential for the 22-year old.
One troubling factor about Allen is that his best college season was two years ago. That could be a symptom of the five-star talent around him and him playing a reduced role, but Allen’s entire statline (excluding assists) pale in comparison to his sophomore stats. While Allen may play with effort at all times, he isn’t too capable of a 1-on-1 defender, with slower than expected anticipation. His measurables aren’t super impressive, so he may struggle against more athletic players on both ends. On the offensive side, Allen wasn’t the best finisher at the rim. There could be multiple explanations for this, including Duke’s clumped frontcourt, Allen’s poor functional athleticism, or simply just a lack of touch.
Allen’s fire, aside from his shooting, could be his strongest attribute. For a Nets team that often lulled into monotony, Allen could be a player that can wake a struggling team up in games. His combo wing skillset fits the Nets’ mold, and his reliable shooting will always be a plus. Still, the Nets may elect to go for a wing with higher upside or hidden potential at their picks, and Allen already seems like a finished product. As a prerequisite of being a four-year Duke player, Allen will be a villain for opposing fanbases but likely beloved for his team. If a Brooklyn Net, I suggest the nickname “Grayson Derulo.”
Devonte Graham, Guard, Kansas (CMP: 45.25)
Graham is another mature, NBA-ready point guard prospect. A pure point that excels scoring off the dribble, Graham projects as a solid bench playmaker. He shot a fantastic 40.6% from three and 39.4% from NBA three, per The Stepien. Graham can put a lot of points in a hurry with his ability to split defenders and pull up and his deep range. As a playmaker, Graham is probably one of the most complete passers outside of the lottery. He pushes the ball ahead in transition, not afraid to swing for the fences. Graham navigates the pick and roll pretty adeptly, and makes the right reads. Graham is also a defensive workhorse, who will hound opposing point guards as soon as they cross halfcourt. He reads screens pretty well and can match up pretty well against even the most athletic of points. Graham also projects well as an off-ball defender due to his motor.
Graham would be a great prospect if he were 6’4”. But his stature at 6’2” and skinny frame makes him a back half pick. Graham will struggle defensively, despite his effort and energy. Graham also isn’t terribly quick, and adding muscle to his frame could slow him down even further. A bigger concern for Graham is his shooting inside the arc. He shot 43% at the rim and less than 33% from midrange. That’s not a good sign for his NBA efficiency, where larger, faster defenders will challenge him. He’ll need to rein in his shot selection in order to compete inside the arc.
Graham, much like Jalen Brunson, is a player that’s NBA ready, but could be a 7th or 8th man at best. That’s not a bad thing. He may not have the Brooklyn length, but he has speed and a high motor. His playmaking and shot creation ability would be his standout skills off the bench. At pick 45, Graham could be another player from a successful system that can contribute right away.
Be sure to follow me on twitter, @ignisyon for previews of profiles to come!
Tuesday, June 13th: Safe Bets, Part 2