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Banking on a Breakout… (or two)

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2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Since the moment the Markinson regime took the reins in Brooklyn, there has been an emphasis on player development ... physical, mental and skills.

For a team without many (how about any) draft picks, the only way for the Nets to add talent was to develop it themselves.

Despite the influx of talent this summer and the heightened expectations that come with signing all-world talents like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, player development remains a priority.

In fact, when speaking with the media Tuesday, Sean Marks went as far to say that Brooklyn was “banking on someone rising” to help the team reach and exceed expectations.

“As Kenny always said before, we’re banking on somebody. Somebody has to,” said Marks. “Every team plays above expectations and so forth. They always have somebody that rises to the occasion, puts the work in the summer. I can honestly go down and name a few guys.”

Interestingly enough, the first name that came off Marks’ tongue —without hesitation— was new forward Taurean Prince who has impressed this summer in team workouts.

“Taurean had a really good summer,” said the Nets GM.

Prince, the 6’8’’ summer acquisition from Atlanta, should see a big role this season in Brooklyn. With Kevin Durant expected to miss at least a large chunk of the upcoming season, Wilson Chandler suspended for 25 games, and Rodions Kurucs’ status uncertain, Prince should get the bulk of the minutes at the 4.

The former 12th overall pick out of Baylor possesses an ideal skillset to be a prototypical 3-and-D forward. A career 38% three-point sniper, Prince is coming off a season in which he averaged 13.5 points per game and is just one year removed from averaged 14.1.

Marks became the second member of the Nets organization this week to outwardly praise Prince and pinpoint him as the potential breakout player on the squad this season.

Spencer Dinwiddie was the first, telling Brian Lewis of the NY Post, “(Prince’s) going to be to a pleasant surprise, somebody a lot of people are discounting. He can really, really, really shoot it.”

For the record, that’s three “reallys” from Dinwiddie and one “really” from Marks. So a four-really summer.

Marks was quick to point out that the Nets expect multiple players to expand on their games this season, noting that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Joe Harris take another step.

It’s not just young players either, Marks expressed visible excitement about finding out how much the coaching staff and performance team can squeeze out of veterans like DeAndreJordan and Garrett Temple. Marks who faced Jordan in his last years as a player said he considered that experience when signing Jordan (for four years and $40 million.)

“I ‘felt’ DeAndre up close and personal several times, so I know how big and strong he is. And to have that and have DJ have his presence a part of our group,” said Marks.

“I think that’s something we’re all excited about. He’s extremely vocal, a defensive mindset, really anchoring your defense back there, and I think you look at it from a development standpoint. Where can his game go to? You never limit him, but also, how can he help develop some of our young guys in terms of Jarrett. And for Jarrett to be battling him day-in and day-out, and for DJ to be sharing some of the knowledge he’s learned, that’s terrific.”

Over the weekend, Nets director of scouting and Long Island GM Matt Riccardi also had praise for 6’11” two-way Henry Ellenson, late of the Knicks, saying the 22-year-old has “a ton of development potential” and that the organization is “excited” about bringing it out.

And the Nets have, as Shams Charania pointed out, shuttled more than one big in and out of HSS in the last few weeks, since Chandler and Kurucs’ issues arose. He noted that veterans Lance Thomas, Dante Cunningham, an ex-Net, and even Luol Deng have been around ... and we spotted former Florida center John Egbunu Tuesday. (C.J. Williams, a 6’5”, 230-pound swingman, was also in the gym. He’s a candidate for a two-way deal, Charania suggested.)

Marks said that the Nets would likely bring someone on while Chandler serves his suspension.

“Yeah, we would definitely look at that. Like always, you keep all your options open as long as you can. I think that’s what we’ll do,” he noted.

The Nets might now be on to the contending phase of their progression, however, the organization still places high importance on internal development as a main catalyst to team success.

“We’ve seen in the last few years, our scouts and analytic group have done a heck of a job finding some diamonds in the rough and they’ve done a heck of a job developing,” he added.

As Marks suggested, don’t be surprised to see multiple Nets improve this season in Brooklyn. It’s what they’ve done best.