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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 8

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And we’re back, for our 12th big year! Every weekend, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off that first round loss.

The Waiting is the hardest part

The waiting is the hardest part

Every day you see one more card

You take it on faith, you take it to the heart

The waiting is the hardest part

Tom Petty was sooo right.

With the Draft out of the way —the Nets got generally good grades for their picks, Nic Claxton at No. 31 and Jaylen Hands at No. 56, as well as for their ability to use the draft to create more cap space. Now, the main event is approaching: free agency and the pursuit of superstars in free agency.

It is, of course, staggering that three years into a rebuild ...one some thought could last 10 years... your Brooklyn Nets are reportedly at the top of the list for both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Kawhi Leonard will likely take a meeting. Tobias Harris would “definitely” like to do the same. Kristaps Porzingis?

Heady stuff. So why are so many of us a little anxious about it? One reason of course is the ruptured Achilles tendon KD suffered in the Finals. He will miss all of next season and by the time he returns, he’ll be 32. A risk. The other issue is that many fans fear the loss of D’Angelo Russell who became the face of the franchise but is now questionable to return. We already made our thoughts clear on DLo.

Now, we wait. Do the Nets get two superstars or one or none? Lose DLo? or get surprised? The last is the most certain of those three scenarios.

Assume this, however: Sean Marks didn’t make three moves in two weeks — the Allen Crabbe trade, the decision not to extend Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and trading out of the first round— because he thinks he has a shot at something. That’s not the way he operates. He’s ready for the biggest prize: teaming two of the 10 best players in the NBA. Some have even suggested the Nets may have to trade Dzanan Musa to open more cap space.

As we were told back in April, expect “unpopular decisions.” Rondae, although nearly a given, was the first. The next two weeks will likely produce others, even more unpopular decisions ... and big big moves that will likely shock the NBA, make the Nets a contender and the hope is, establish Brooklyn as a primary landing spot for the league’s best.

Of course, nothing has happened yet. As we say, watch this space.

Yang for President?

There are 23 Democratic candidates for President this cycle and they feature a number of firsts, first gay candidate, first native Hawaiian candidate, first Indian-American candidate. And it appears, first Nets fan!

Andrew Yang, a native New Yorker and tech entrepreneur, tweeted this out Saturday.

The tweet may be random but the man is a genius!

We don’t know his connection to the team, but Yang is of Taiwanese heritage and an Ivy League lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, like Joe Tsai. Maybe someone can ask him about it at next week’s presidential debate on NBC/MSNBC. (Shameless plug.)

Draftermath

At the beginning of the month, the Nets had three picks, the 17th, 27th and 31st. They finished Thursday night with the 31st and 56th. The 17th went to Atlanta in the Allen Crabbe trade; the 27th to the Clippers for a lottery protected pick next year and the 56th pick.

So much for mock drafts and compilations of mock drafts, aka Draft Watch. Two mocks did have the Nets taking the 6’11” Nic Claxton, ESPN’s and FanSided, both at No. 27. Interestingly, before the Draft, Claxton had been rising, as high as 17th in The Ringer poll. All the final mock drafts had him as a first rounder. His lack of strength and his quick rise may have made front offices nervous.

Jaylen Hands, on the other hand (pun intended), was mostly projected as late second rounder or not drafted at all. He’s the polar opposite of Claxton. While Claxton was unhyped and ranked no higher than No. 272 in the 2017 high school rankings, Hands was top 20 and top three among point guards. His nickname in high school was “Baby Westbrook”, a tribute to his ball-handling, athleticism, finishing ability and ultimately his choice of college. His high school mixtape reached legendary status, gathering a million page views but his dream of one-and-done fell flat.

Claxton is the now the more intriguing prospect. At the NBA Combine, he measured a quarter-inch under seven feet with a 7’2” wingspan and a 36.5” max vertical. By comparison, Jarrett Allen is about an inch shorter (or was when he was drafted) with a 7’5.5” wingspan and a 35.4” max vert. However, Allen is currently 20 pounds heavier.

Where Claxton excels is his ball-handling and on-ball defense. His three point shooting has been criticized but at Georgia, he shot 30.2 percent over two years, 26-for-86. That’s more experience and a better percentage than Allen who was 0-for-7 in his one year at Texas. So there’s a foundation. With the Nets pushing Allen to improve his three-point shooting this summer, expect both of them to spread the floor, maybe not at the same time. (If they do play together, call them “The Thin Towers” for now.)

Here’s some video of Claxton last year at Georgia. Pay attention to how his coach, Tom Crean, gave him the opportunity to handle the ball.

Like we said before, his lack of strength hurt his draft stock, but Sean Marks gave a hint the other night that they may see him in an unconventional role (that could take some time).

“I think there’s a tremendous amount of upside there with him. The way he moves, the way I think he’ll eventually be able to stretch the floor, the way he can handle the ball already. It’s always nice when you get a guy with that build and hopefully add to that frame.

“I think Nic is a guy that we’ll let develop and we’ll see where that translates and see where he goes from a development standpoint. I’d hate to pigeonhole him.”

Position-less basketball. Might he play in the G League next season? That of course depends on a lot of things, including whether the Nets re-sign Ed Davis or another back-up big. Claxton isn’t opposed to development, of course, but he thinks he can play at the NBA level now.

“I just want to show people I can play, A lot of people think I’m a project. I just want to show people that I can play and go out there and contribute in a major way.”

His father, who played three games for the Celtics in 1995 ... scoring two points, has VERY high hopes for Claxton, telling Michael Scotto...

“I would say Nicolas in two years is going to be an All-Star,. You’re going to write it and it’s going to come to fruition because he’s going to bust his ass every day.”

That would be nice!!!

Hands is, as we’ve said a different story. He was ballyhooed as the replacement for Lonzo Ball when he arrived on the Westwood campus of UCLA. He saw himself as a one-and-done college player. As noted, his mixtape was a must-see for college hoops fanatics. At No. 20 in the ESPN Recruiting database, Hands was ranked higher than a lot of prospects taken in the last two drafts, including point guards Trae Young (No. 23) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 35).

He didn’t match the hype, particularly in his first season, as Bruins’ Nation, our SB Nation sister site noted just before the Draft...

During his freshman year, he had a tendency to play out of control. He did a much better job last year and actually became the MVP of the 2018-19 Bruins. He was not padding his stats against bad teams either. He had his best game—Oregon, arguably the Pac-12’s best team. Here’s a little highlight from that game:

In fact, Hands was the UCLA leader last year in assists, steals and free throw percentage. Actually, Hands not only led the Bruins but he led the Pac-12 in assists by a significant margin: one assist per game. Unfortunately, he also led the Pac-12 in turnovers at 3.1 per game and there were still questions about his decision-making and shot selection.

But as his highlight reel shows, there’s a lot to work with.

Marks also used the word, “intrigued” Friday morning when talking about Hands...

“Jaylen’s an explosive young guard. I’m very intrigued by him, so it will be interesting to see him and get up close and personal, get to know him, and see where he goes from there.”

Of course, he, too, is likely to spend time in Long Island. One Nets insider already has experience with Hands. Two years ago, when Joe Tsai helped sponsor the Pac-12 China Game, he noted that his children, who attended a rival school to Hands’ Foothills Christian, introduced him to Hands’ game. Hands later talked about his experience with Tsai in China.

And no, there’s no indication that Tsai had any influence in the pick.

A couple of other notes about Draft Night: After the Nets drafted Claxton, his Georgia coach, tweeted out his congratulations and made a point of noting Brooklyn’s culture is ideal for his big man’s development.

This is a good thing on a number of different levels starting with the Nets rep growing across basketball, whether pro, collegiate or international.

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, who did that site’s mock drafts, thinks the Nets development culture could be a big help to Claxton but also thinks the Nets got first round talent and argues the Nets should lock him up. Unlike first rounders, second rounders are no guaranteed money, but in the past, the Nets have signed their second rounders to contracts equal to what the 30th pick in the first round gets. They did it with Rodions Kurucs last summer, giving him a four-year, $7 million contract that could turn into a bargain.

Vecenie thinks they should do the same with Claxton...

“I had him at No. 21 on my board, and I think the Nets should give him a three year deal worth pretty real money with two guaranteed and a team option tacked on the end.”

However, as Bobby Marks points out, any contract longer than two years will require the Nets to dip into cap space. Not likely.

And we unearthed some video from when Claxton played against Allen in the FIBA Americas U18 competition in Chile back in July 2016 when Claxton was 17 and Allen 18. Team USA played Team Virgin Islands. Although born in South Carolina, Claxton is of Virgin Islands heritage. No surprise but USA beat USVI, 107-63. Both future Nets scored seven points but Allen outrebounded Claxton, 10-7.

Here’s the full game video...

Enjoy. You might recognize a few young NBAers in the red, white and blue.

Summer League Update

Nic Claxton and Jaylen Hands will almost certainly play for the Nets next month in Las Vegas. So will four roster players: Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa, Theo Pinson as well as Jarrett Allen, who played last year after missing his rookie year with a hip issue.

In addition, the Nets have reportedly signed four free agents, 6’3” point guard out of the University of Buffalo; two 6’5” shooting guards, Ahmed Hill from Virginia Tech and Jaylen Morris, who last played in the G League; and Kaleb Johnson, a defensive-minded 6’7” small forward.

Also, it looks like stash Izay Cordinier, the hyper athletic 6’5” combo guard out of France, will debut at Vegas. He posted an Instagram story of him at a Brooklyn rooftop restaurant Friday. No word yet on the Nets two other stashes, Aleksandar Vezenkov, a 6’9” stretch 4 from Bulgaria, and Juan Pablo Vaulet, the 6’7” small forward out of Argentina. Vaulet has made two two visits to Las Vegas, in 2015 and 2018, but foot issues prevented him playing both years.

Counting all of them up, including Vezenkov and Vaulet, that’s 13 players. The Nets brought 17 to Vegas last summer. So, they’re might be more signings before the July 4 weekend when teams fly to Nevada for a few days of practice prior to opening night at the Cox Pavilion. For the Nets, that will be July 5 vs. Dallas.

Nets performance team works with Brooklyn girls

This is very cool.

At 10 a.m. Sunday, the Nets will host an all-girls youth clinic on the practice court at Barclays Center. Approximately 50 young girls, ages 6-14, from local organizations including PowerPlay, Peace Players, Steady Buckets and FunSport will participate in this free Brooklyn Nets Basketball Academy clinic.

The all-female group of clinicians working with the girls will include staff from the Nets performance team, as well as members from Hoop York City, a local organization whose mission is to provide unique opportunities for women to play basketball.

The Nets have several women —all with advanced degrees and/or certifications— working on their performance team, led by Stefania Rizzo, the Nets director of rehabilitation, and Jana Austin, the Nets assistant trainer.

We wrote about women on the performance team last summer.

Truth in Height

We noted earlier that although everyone lists Nic Claxton at 6’11”, he’s actually 6’11 3/4”, or a quarter inch sort of seven feet. So should we call him a seven-footer? We believe so. Last year, he had the same issue with Rodions Kurucs who the Nets listed at 6’9” on the Brooklyn roster but 6’10” on the Long Island roster, where he did spend some time early in the season. He was officially measured at 6’10” before last year’s Draft.

Final Note

Is it too early to talk the 2020 NBA Draft when the Nets have the 76ers first round pick, lottery protected, which they acquired in return for the 27th pick in this year’s draft?

No. Just don’t read the mocks!

He appears to be a good player, but oh, that baggage.