The Future Approaches
The Draft is now four days away. Free agency two weeks. As we’ve said, it’s a momentous period for the organization. What they do —and don’t do— will effect them for a long, long time from signing big-time free agents to deciding what to do with their own, whether it’s re-signing D’Angelo Russell or extending Caris LeVert and Taurean Prince. They have until October 21 to make a decision on LeVert and Prince.
The Draft may be a big anticlimactic after the Nets sent Allen Crabbe along with their own first and another in 2020 to the Hawks for Prince, a 2021 second and a whole lot of cap space. Instead of holding the 17th, 27th and 31st, they only have the latter two ... and in a draft that is both mediocre after the first few picks and flat for a long time after that. With such a flat draft, teams may be more willing to take some risks on injured players like Bol Bol or Jontay Porter or on players with some taint like Kevin Porter Jr., the Nets among them. They had representatives, up to and including Sean Marks, at “Pro Days,” agent-sponsored workouts, in southern California over the last couple of weeks. They were on hand for Bol, Porter and Darius Bazely in the last three weeks. All three might fall into the 20’s, but getting them to the late 20’s might be a stretch. We’ll see.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Our final draft sleeper in Darius Bazely, at No. 27. Bazely is unique in this year’s draft. He didn’t attend college, didn’t play overseas, didn’t play in the G League. He worked out on his own ... and got an “internship” with New Balance, the footwear brand, to tide him over. He could wind up with $14 million if he hits all his goals. Essentially, he’s this year’s Mitch Robinson. Like the Knicks center, Bazely is an unknown quantity despite a ton of skills. At 6’10” and with a wingspan of more than seven feet, Bazely has the size and some skills to make it in the NBA as a forward, perhaps even switching from the 3 to the 4.
Here are a few videos of him to watch closely, since you probably haven’t seen him unless you watched him in high school or in high school all-star games.
First, his high school (Princeton, Ohio) mix tape for last summer when he announced he would go the New Balance route...
Liked on YouTube: Class of 2018 Darius Bazley Official Summer Mixtape! Will Play Pro Ball Straight Out Of HS! https://t.co/FenPyouGT6— 5tephen (@ba5ketball) March 30, 2018
Nice. Now, video of his Draft Combine moments in mid-May...
Very nice. Now, here’s one of his Pro Day workout on May 28 of this year...
Darius Bazley showing off his athleticism and near 9-foot standing reach at the Klutch Sports Pro Day. Barely needs to jump to dunk. pic.twitter.com/58Ph98BW4v— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 28, 2019
Hey, who is that tall guy in shorts right underneath the basket with the best view of Bazley’s athleticism? Why it’s Sean Marks! Now, obviously, there were other players at this Pro Day event for Rich Paul’s clients, but there does appear to be interest on the Nets side. Bazley just turned 19 this week and as we know, the Nets basketball operations staff is a patient bunch. He could wind up on Long Island with occasional trips to Brooklyn like last year’s late first rounder, 19-year-old Dzanan Musa. Or he could surprise and get his shot earlier, like last year’s mid second rounder, 20-year-old Rodions Kurucs,
Speaking of comparisons with Musa, there’s this: In last year’s ESPN TV’s mock draft preview, Woj et al projected Musa to the Nets at No. 29, a bit of a surprise but as it turned out quite accurate. This year’s televised mock draft preview had the Nets taking Bazley at No. 27, again a bit of surprise. Moreover, Woj and Jay Williams singled out the Nets projection as a particularly interesting one.
Was Woj speculating? As one league source told us a couple of years back regarding another piece by the Wizard of Bristol, “Woj wasn’t speculating. Bob. Woj was working.”
There was even a slight hint in the broadcast about how the Nets might be a good fit. Jay Williams noted Bazley’s need for top flight training, including nutrition, two things the Nets excel at in their development planning.
Could be a tough call if Luka Samanic is still available. But the Nets’ confidence in their player development lets them gamble on upside in the kid (just turned 19 Wednesday) who sat out last season, but looked good in his predraft workouts.
So what’s our prediction for Thursday night? We’re going with Luka Samanic at No. 27, the 6’11” Croatian forward who is 19 years old. Rather than wait for the NBA’s Global Camp, he pushed to get an invite to the NBA Draft Combine, a couple of weeks earlier. Good move. the Global Camp had to be cancelled and he did well in the Combine, in measurements, interviews and a single scrimmage where he showed off his deep shooting skills.
As for No. 31, here’s hoping that Bazley or Jontay Porter is available. We like both as risks with the first pick of the second round. Porter won’t play for most, if not all, of next season because of a torn ACL —his second— but he has the skills and improved maturity.
Could there be a trade in which the Nets lose No. 27 to clear more cap space ... or add a late second rounder? Never say never.
Some Draft viewing tips
As we’ve noted, the Nets will be hosting the NBA Draft for the ninth straight year —- two years at the Prudential Center and now seven at Barclays Center. Expect a crowd in excess of 10,000 with a lot of Knick fans and some 76ers as well. New York currently has the No. 3 pick and Philly has five picks, at Nos. 24, 33, 34, 42 and 54. The Brooklyn Brigade will be on hand, no doubt with custom chants depending on who gets picked.
Sean Marks and the rest of the basketball operations will be over at the HSS Training Center in Industry City. That’s where the Nets media will (mostly) gather. Mikhail Prokhorov, Dmitry Razumov and others from the Moscow contingent are expected to watch from HSS as well. No word on Joe Tsai. Yes, Prokhorov and Razumov are still very, very involved in the process ... and in the team. (A spy at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum earlier this month tells us that the two showed at the annual event — hosted by Vladimir Putin— wearing Nets gear. Wear Brooklyn at indeed!)
Because the Allen Crabbe trade won’t be official until July 6 when everyone has their salary caps straightened out, whoever gets taken at No. 17 will be announced as a Nets pick, not a Hawks pick. Atlanta will be phoning the name of the pick to Brooklyn who will then forward it to the Commissioner. It is the Hawks’ pick.
If the Nets take Samanic at No. 27 (and the Nets haven’t traded up), he will be the fourth straight European pick by Marks, et al, following Aleksandr Vezenkov, taken in the second round in 2017 and last year’s two picks, Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs. In addition to being European, all three are 6’9” or taller. Will the trend continue?
The Nets normally introduce their picks at a Brooklyn press conference the day after the Draft, which is this case will be next Friday. Marks, Kenny Atkinson and the picks will be made available, assuming the prospects are in New York. We’re sure Marks will be asked questions about free agency, D’Angelo Russell and the Crabbe trade, none of which he will answer. Tampering rules still apply.
Watch Twitter as the Draft concludes for word on who among the undrafted the Nets will sign for summer league and/or training camp, even two-ways. Last year, the Nets had Theo Pinson as a second rounder on their mock draft and when it appeared he wasn’t going to be selected, they called and offered him a deal, which he accepted.
And on Tuesday, we will offer up our annual “Draft Night Wonders and Blunders,” a summary of what happened —and what didn’t— with the Nets picks going back to 2000, two decades of anxiety in one place!!!
Not gonna talk about free agency. Nope.
Too much speculation. Too much bad information. Plus the Draft comes first. But we do love how the New York media, particularly the tabloids, are picking up on the reality that the Nets have become a possible, maybe even likely landing spot for top free agents. Like this back page in Saturday’s Daily News...
“Forget the Knicks?!?” Oh dear.
Coachable Moment in Madrid
We talked last week about how Rodions Kurucs posted an Instragram video of him and two of the Nets stashes, Aleksandar Vezenkov and Isaia Cordinier, at the Real Madrid training center in the Spanish capital.
Here’s a still...
It now appears that Kurucs, who was on his way to Basketball Without Borders Europe in his native Latvia, as well as the two stashes, were getting shooting instructions from the Nets “tele-coach” Stefan Weissenboeck. Weissenboeck was featured in a CloseUp360 profile back in April. He works mainly for Brose Bamberg in the German League but has a worldwide rep as a shooting instructor. So the Nets quietly signed him.
As Yanir Rubinstein of CloseUp360 noted...
He has continued to work full-time with Bamberg while flying to the U.S. every 4-6 weeks or so to spend several days doing targeted individual workouts with specific Nets players. In between these meetings, he keeps in touch both with Brooklyn’s players and coaches by sending them video clips with pointers.
He reportedly worked with the young players for four days. We don’t know if anyone else besides Kurucs and the stashes worked out with him, but the NBA’s best deep shooter, Joe Harris, and the Nets record holder for most three’s in a season, D’Angelo Russell, were also at the training center. The two Nets vets were there as part of an NBA promotion tied to the UEFA Champions League final. ,
Will the newly tutored stashes be in Las Vegas for summer league games (which are broadcast live)? No official word, but Kurucs, Dzanan Musa and Jarrett Allen have all confirmed they’re all playing. The Nets brought 17 players to Las Vegas last summer, but Kurucs and Musa had contract issues that stopped them from playing and two international players, 2015 stash Juan Pablo Vaulet and Ding Yanyuhang of China, were hurt.
Working the Night Shift
Nets players proudly post videos of themselves, often alone, working out late at the HSS Training Center. D’Angelo Russell has been doing it since shortly after he arrived following the Laker trade in June 2017.
On Friday, Musa’s brother Dzennis posted a short video of his brother putting up shots at 9:05 p.m. on a Friday night...
As Caris LeVert told Pooch exclusively on Wednesday, Nets players aren’t distracted by free agency rumors. They’re working out.
“We don’t hear anything. We’re in the gym everyday… whatever happens, happens. We’re all just in the gym trying to get better. Same old, same old.”
Sounds like a Net tutored by Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson. Say little. Reveal little. But always be respectful.
It appears that Rodions Kurucs has decided on a new nickname, one that we weren’t familiar with anyway. If you go to his Instagram feed, you’ll see this...
“Tiger?” What’s that about? Seems about right, though. Tigers are nocturnal and aggressive and often knock their prey to the ground before doing them in.
Good luck, Tiger ... and we agree, If he dies, he dies.