As Long Island Nets head coach Shaun Fein stressed prior to the start of the season, when his players continue to develop, winning will follow. After going 2-10 in the first month of the season, the Nets currently sit at 6-12, winning four of their last six games.
By way of background, the Long Island Nets have been one of the best teams in the G League when it comes to developing talent in recent years, whether for the parent club or other NBA teams. The Nets organization takes pride in valuing developing their players over winning when it comes to their G League affiliate.
In their recent stretch of winning, there have been a handful of players who have developed well, especially the Long Island backcourt of Jaylen Hands and Devin Cannady.
Take a look at their best games, both of which have come in the last two weeks...
Fein spoke about his backcourt duo after the team’s win over the Erie Bayhawks Friday. He believes they’ll continue to build for the rest of the season.
“I think they have a nice little tandem between Jaylen [Hands] and Devin [Cannady],” Fein said. “They’ll continue that throughout the season.”
Hands, who was drafted by the Nets with the 56th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was signed under the Draft Rights Player rule, which allows NBA teams to draft players then sign them directly to G League contracts. In other words, Hands is a domestic stash for the Nets for his rookie season. Before the two-way signing of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, there was a chance Hands could have joined Henry Ellenson as a two-way this season.
The former UCLA Bruin has developed quite well two months into the G League season, especially in the month of December. His shooting percentages have shot up while his turnovers, which were a big reason for him falling in the 2019 NBA Draft, have dropped. He credits those areas of improvement to his coaches and teammates.
“Just working on my shot with the coaches everyday,” Hands said. “Being disciplined in how I shoot and shooting good shots. Turnovers, just being steady with the ball so I think that is all a testament for our team. My teammates helped me, my coaches encouraged me and have been working with me.”
He is posting averages of 27.2 minutes, 14.3 points, 4.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.3 turnovers per game. Hands is shooting the ball at 40 percent from three and 42 percent from the field despite a couple of rough games at the end of this week.
At training camp in October, Fein acknowledged the talent within his new point guard, emphasizing his explosiveness. The new Nets head coach’s main goal with Hands was to work with him on point guard skills, teaching him the Nets system, and ‘becoming a point guard.’
On Friday, Hands did not have a good game offensively, finishing with only six points in 32 minutes of play. He shot 3-of-21 from the field and 0-of-7 from the field. Fein spoke after the game how he credits his guard for finishing out the game making an impact outside of scoring and still making an impact on the game.
“Jaylen had a rough night offensively, but I liked how he came back into the game and took it to the rack a couple times,” Fein said after Friday’s win. “He got us open three in the corner or two. So continuing to play through those tough moments when you’re not shooting the ball well. It is a great lesson for him that he can still affect the game in other ways when he is not scoring.”
As for Cannady, he has been the big surprise when it comes to development on this Long Island Nets team. Heading into his rookie season, Cannady finished his collegiate career with Princeton University with historic shooting percentages. He shot 44.1 percent overall, 40.1 percent from deep, and an eye-popping 89.6 percent from the line, which ranks 10th highest in NCAA history. His draft stock took a hit when he got into a confrontation with a campus security guard, but the Nets liked what they saw in him during a post-season workout and signed him to a training camp contract, then to a G League deal after he was cut.
In the first two months of the season with Long Island, Cannady has shown he is much more than a sharpshooter. The former Princeton Tiger is an aggressive driver who can create space in traffic. In addition, Cannady is a solid passer, especially off penetration and kick plays. On the defensive end, Cannady is becoming a vocal leader and has been guarding the opposing team’s best players.
Cannady acknowledges the fact that he is best known for being a sharpshooter. He noted how in college, that was what he was asked to do. When he got to the G League, his role has changed and has been taking advantage of the increased role.
“Being a winner, I realized in college, what was asked of me was to knock down shots,” Cannady told NetsDaily. “Here, it is the same thing but in order to win at this level, you have to defend. That is something I have taken pride in, guarding the other team’s best player.”
The Nets guard spoke about adjusting to G League competition and credits the team’s veteran, C.J. Williams, for teaching him the little things and becoming a professional this season. With his overall play developing very well, Cannady believes defense has been a huge reason why his team is beginning to trend in the right direction.
“I think it took a little bit of time to adjust,” Cannady acknowledges. “The pace of the game, it is a lot more physical but I think, especially with C.J. Williams and his knowledge of the game, he has taken me under his wing and teaching me the little things on how to be a pro. For the team overall, I just think we had a lot of tough losses overall early on in the season. We are starting to figure out how to come together on the defensive end and win those games. I think we are trending in the right direction.”
The 6’2 guard is posting averages of 33.2 minutes, 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Cannady is shooting the ball at 42 percent overall and 37 percent from deep this season. He is also averaging 2.2 turnovers per game.
What’s next for the two guards?
Next Sunday marks the first day teams can sign players to 10-day contracts if a team has a roster opening. If the Nets are looking to pursue a 10-day, someone will have to be cut by next Sunday. Both Hands and Cannady could have valuable use off the bench for Brooklyn on a 10-day deal. But their situations are different.
It doesn’t seem likely Hands will get a 10-day deal with Brooklyn even if a player is cut. With Hands signed under a G League draft rights provision, no other team than the Nets can sign him to a 10-day deal. The Nets own his rights. But If the Nets sign Hands to a 10-day deal, his Nets rights would end. With that said, the Nets are unlikely to call Hands up.
“I have never seen an NBA rights player recieve a 10-day,” a league source told NetsDaily.
As for Cannady, he signed an Exhibit 10 deal with Brooklyn back in October. Following the deal, he, along with C.J. Massinburg, was cut, but the Nets retained their G League rights. Other teams can call him up. So can the Nets as long as they have an open spot on their roster. (The Nets could, for example, cut David Nwaba, who’s out for the season, sign Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to a standand deal and add Cannady as a two-way as long as all those transactions are completed by January 15.)
There is precedence for the Nets giving players a chance with two-ways. Over the past three years, they’ve signed five players to 10-days.
Last season, Brooklyn signed two Long Island Nets to 10-day deals last season: Mitch Creek and Tahjere McCall. In addition to their 10-day deals, many players from Long Island’s team last year have received either new contracts in the NBA or well paid deals overseas.
“It’s been good,” Hands said of his G League experience. “I think we’re getting a good streak of games in. We won a lot of our last games, coming off of playing five games in a row so it is going good right now.”
For Cannady, it’s not just about his skillset, whether 3-point shooting or defense. It’s about “doing my best, communicating, learning how to lead, and doing everything I can to help the team.”
There are, beyond the backcourt, other Long Island players who are developing nicely. John Egbunu had a monster game Saturday night vs. the Canton Charge. The 6’11” Florida product set a career-high with 26 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s loss. The Nets 24-year-old big man had been beset by injury in college, but is now healthy.
The Nets have invested a lot in Long Island. The development of Hands, Cannady and others like Egbunu may be the payoff.