Before Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ever suit up and take the court at the Barclays Center, even before they sit for their introductory press conference, the Nets Summer League team will draw some attention and hopefully make a little bit of a splash (or since this is Las Vegas, kick up a little sand, turn on a little neon, win a little at the table.)
The Nets tip off their summer slate against the Mavericks on Friday at 7 p.m. ET on NBA TV.
In the new and impending era of Brooklyn basketball, the Nets will be largely strapped for cap space, which means they’re going to have to find cheap talent — for the foreseeable future — to fill out the roster. Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, and even Theo Pinson are the models: players who the Nets have had to find on the cheap and develop into players.
Will any of the players on the Nets Summer League team have locker rooms in Brooklyn when the season opens in October? Almost certainly. Pinson was found in the Summer League, got a two-way deal, destroyed the G-League wound up at the end of the season with a standard NBA deal. Similarly there are a few this year who might make for prospects with a chance to pop.
We’re going to break down who the Nets are bringing along to Vegas, and maybe get to know some future prospects a little better. We’re not going into the four roster players who will be out in Vegas: Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa or Pinson. You know about those guys, seen them play a bit. Instead, we’ll focus on those players who may not have seen. Let’s get into it, starting with the two guys the Nets drafted back on June 20 ... what seems to be a life time ago.
Nic Claxton (33)
This one’s an obvious focus, as the Nets essentially view Claxton as their first round pick, and we’re going to get the chance to see the new big man in action which is exciting. The Nets list Claxton as a forward and center which is interesting. Claxton has the hint of a perimeter shot, but in today’s NBA, an athletic 6’11” (and 3/4) big man with a high motor, good athleticism and a decent shot is usually going to pitched as a center (unless of course you’re Kevin Durant!)
Claxton sharing the court with Jarrett Allen or DeAndre Jordan will probably cause some spacing issues, but he (probably) has a better jump shot right now than either. He also has a better handle having grown up as a point guard until he had a huge growth spurt late in high school. Regardless of where he plays, Claxton has great natural defensive chops and projects to be a solid if maybe unconventional big man. Jarrett Allen actually isn’t a bad comparison, even though Claxton seems to have a bit more flash in his game than Jarrett does. Allen also has 30 more pounds on his frame. Sean Marks has said he wouldn’t want to “pigeon hole” Claxton which suggests you’ll see him doing things seven-footers normally don’t.
Jaylen Hands (4)
The second of the Nets second round picks in the draft last month, Jaylen Hands comes out of UCLA where he spent two seasons with the Bruins, the second of which was highly successful for the California native. He scored 14.2 points per game, dished out 6.1 assists —tops in the Pac-12— and shot pretty well from three at 37%. He has a throwback style his game and his sense of fashion. He is somewhat reminiscent of point guards from the past who could score and pass with the best of them but lacked efficiency in their offensive game. Hands shot 41% from the floor last season, which is not great.
On the other hand, he plays with a ton of passion and energy, which is awesome sometimes and other times, not so much. He averaged 3.2 turnovers per game. Not Russell Westbrook bad, but also not good. The two UCLA guards do share some common traits though, like lots of athleticism and a strong will to win. Hands was even called “Baby Westbrook” in high school. Hands, however, doesn’t make you cringe when he shoots. That’s a plus. On the fashion side, he short shorts at UCLA! That ain’t happening here!
Hands, it should be noted, is not guaranteed a contract as a second rounder. So he’s fighting for a deal in Vegas.
Now, let’s hear about some bigs, big bigs.
Amida Brimah (15)
This 25 year old, 7’0, 250-pound Ghanaian center was a teammate of Shabazz Napier’s at UConn, and spent last season playing for the Austin Spurs in the G-League, whose GM was Andy Birdson, now assistant GM of the Nets. He’s impossibly long with a high center of gravity and a crazy 7’6.5 wingspan, and uses every inch of it to aggressively block shots, averaging 4.7 blocks per 36 minutes last season in Austin. Like a lot of raw, athletic big men, he also fouls a lot, but he has the frame of a game that could potentially be refined into a rim-running, shot blocking backup center. He has shades of Hassan Whiteside, another raw physical talent who had to cut his teeth in the G-League before sticking with Miami.
For big men of their ilk, honing their athleticism in and carving out a game that keeps the blocks but reduces the fouls is imperative, and difficult, but if Brimah can figure out a way to do it, he could turn into an asset for an NBA team someday. Or a two-way?
Duop Reath (41)
Duop Reath is large. That’s really the first thing you notice about him. Yes, he’s listed at 6’11” which is gigantic for a regular person and normal for an NBA center and he has a large frame that just screams “hard screens”. He played at LSU for a couple of seasons, averaging 12.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game across two seasons, and went undrafted after that. He played in Serbia last year after a brief jaunt on the Mavericks summer league team, and between him and Amida Brimah the Nets are going to get a good look at a couple of raw, gigantic big men who might prove to be more than just “guys who were really tall so they were good at basketball until everyone caught up”.
Reath also shoots threes, which is not shocking in 2019. His success rate is about the same as Claxton’s, around 30 percent, not the mark of efficiency. But it is encouraging. Brimah, on the other hand, does not attempt threes. Like Brimah, Reath is African, born in the southern part of Sudan which is now the nation of South Sudan. He and his family fled to Australia where he learned the game and became an Australian citizen, not a bad thing an organization where you can hear Australian and New Zealand accents just walking down the hall! He’s 23.
Now here’s where it gets really interesting. The mysterious French stash arrives!
Isaia Cordinier (28)
Cordinier, or at least, the rights to Cordinier, came over in the Jeremy Lin trade with Atlanta, and the former 44th overall pick who’s just 23 years old. According to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, there’s every indication the Nets asked for him in the trade and the Hawks said, fine. Playing in his native France last season, he put up 10.2 points per game on 48/33/70 shooting in 29 games in France’s Pro A league, their best. He had missed the entire 2017-18 season undergoing double knee surgery to cure his painful tendinitis. As the season wore on, he improved dramatically, with games of 28 and 27 points and a three-point shooting percentage that was close to 40 percent late.
He’s one of those European kids who’s been playing pro ball since he was a teenager, and we’ve seen time and time again those types of guys come over and succeed in the league almost immediately. Rodions Kurucs and Luka Doncic were two of them just last season, to varying degrees of success. Cordinier is listed as 6’5, 185 but his frame is broad and he is very, very athletic, which makes his drives to the rim and finishes feel more powerful than the average 2 guard. If he were to hypothetically play in the NBA next season, there would be no doubt he’d be able to absorb contact at the rim and finish/draw fouls, which is something a lot of young guys don’t have upon entering the league.
Cordinier can attack off the dribble and is a savvy cutter, and he has a solid enough jumper where he can be a threat on catch-and-shoots. Plus, when you have all the physical tools and a good framework for a jump shot, it makes it a lot easier to get into the gym and shoot a million threes until you’re better. Going from 33% to 40% from three is usually easier than say, 20% to 30%. The Nets seems to have taken a keen interest in Cordinier, visiting him in France, inviting to Brooklyn and last month to Madrid for a tutorial with their shooting consultant Stefan Weissenboeck. He has a contract with Nanterre next season but presumably has the customary “NBA out.” He is very much worth watching out for.
How about the undrafted? There’s a few... guys who the Nets called after they didn’t get called on Draft Night.
Ahmed Hill (14)
Ahmed Hill just finished up his senior season at Virginia Tech, where he averaged 13.1 points per game and shot 44/39/81, which falls in line with his 44/39/74 career line. Good improvement on the free throws! Hill can shoot, and has a slightly unconventional and hitchy but still smooth jumper, and he hit 230 threes in 134 college games. He does also love to dunk, and has the hops to do so, as anyone can tell from any of his YouTube highlights. He’s fast, compact, and has some hops.
At 6’5 he’s a pretty average sized two-guard, but he does lack an elite skill that he could build around in order to become an effective NBA player. That being said, his athleticism is impressive, and there are plenty of players who have carved out careers based largely on their ability to jump out of the gym, hit a few three’s, play some D. Hill will just have to prove he’s one of those guys in order to get a shot in the NBA, and at 23 years old he has a little more time than some of his other Summer League counterparts. Could he wind up in the G-League.
C.J. Massinburg (55)
C.J. Massinburg is a 6’5” combo guard from the University of Buffalo who played a role in some notable Buffalo upsets, He is a leader as well as a PG. He played 130 games at Buffalo in four years and brought the team to new heights: first big win in the NCAA tournament, first top 25 ranking, etc. He was also the MAC Player of the Year, not bad for a kid who had no offers out of high school. That’s who he is, someone who everyone seems to doubt until he gets on the court. Then he gets buckets. He had 43 points against West Virginia, 25 against rival Syracuse.
There are concerns about his athleticism, but he’s gotten this far without it. A character guy and we know how the Nets feel about those guys!
Jon Davis (36)
Like Massinburg, the 6’3” Davis was a mid-major scoring machine, playing four years —and 121 games with UNC Charlotte’s 49ers, In his senior year, he averaged 21.7 points and 3.7 assists, shooting 48/34/85. The scouting report on Davis is that he has NBA range on his three-pointer and is comfortable coming off screens, catch-and-shoots or pull-ups. Solid mid range jumper, too. But his NBA skills, despite his size, is his ability to penetrate. As a senior, he got to the line seven times a game, making six. He took more three-pointers than free throws though. His big issue as a point guard is that his assists-to-turnover ratio at Charlotte was atrocious, with more turnovers than assists ... 4.2 to 3.7. Some of that had to do with Charlotte’s lack of other scorers.
How about some basketball vagabonds from various locales?
Josh Gray (0)
Another 25 year old, Josh Gray is a former LSU point guard who’s bounced around a bit since college, playing on the Northern Arizona Suns in the G-League, briefly for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA, and then the Changwon LG Sakers of the Korean Basketball League since 2018. The last time he was in the G-League, he averaged 19.4 points, 6.3 assists, and 2.3 steals while shooting 45/40/75 which is pretty solid. He’s sort of your classic 6’1, tight handles, quick feet, pass-and-shoot point guard which, while not rare, can be useful if used correctly. He looks poised to handle a lot of the point guard minutes for the Nets in Vegas, so he’ll get a real shot at showing us what he’s got as a floor leader and facilitator as well as a potential scorer.
Jaylen Morris (34)
Another shooting guard and another G-Leaguer, Jaylen Morris played for Molloy College which apparently is a school that exists, and at 23 has made two very brief stints in the NBA with the Hawks and the Bucks. He split last season between the Wisconsin Herd and the Erie BayHawks, averaging between the two 14.7 points and 5.6 rebounds with poor three point shooting and a good overall field goal percentage at 51%. He’s a great finisher, and doesn’t have an ugly shot. It clearly needs work, since he hit just 30% of his threes last season, but it’s not like this dude is walking around with a broken jumper. He has a career shooting percentage of 60% on two-pointers which is something close to what some might call an “elite skill” which is always something to look out for in Summer League and even the G-League. If a guy can naturally do one thing really well, it’s a lot easier to add a couple finishing aspects to his game rather than build a player from the ground up. Joe Harris’s three pointer, is a good example.
Mike Moore (35)
A sniper from Sweden. Moore is 25 years old, having played in Italy, Denmark and the Dominican Republic before settling in with Boras in the Swedish League, where he averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds. He’s a 6’8” swingman who regularly shot 40 percent or close to it from the arc going back to high school. He played college ball at Mount Olive University in North Carolina, a Division II program.
Brooklyn has a reputation now as a talent-finder, with a proven track record of identifying and then incubating players who might otherwise not get a shot on another team. (Then, like Spencer Dinwiddie, they go to Harvard and recruit superstars.)
It’s a great way to exploit the market inefficiency of cheap talent in the NBA, and now with such a commitment to the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn has a place to develop some of these guys even if there won’t be room on the NBA roster next season. But first, they have to show us something in Vegas.
Nets assistant coach Adam Harrington will coach the team.
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