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Vecenie: Nets are all-in, rank No. 30 in NBA prospects

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2020-21 Brooklyn Nets Content Day Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

ICYMI, the Nets rebuild is over.

In ranking all 30 teams’ young prospects, Sam Vecenie puts the Nets at No. 30 and last. That’s not a surprise. The Nets see themselves as championship contenders with the best players on either side of 30.

In years past, these rankings would mean a lot more as the Nets tried to develop a whole cadre of young players, using their draft picks and solid scouting to find diamonds-in-the-rough. That’s not to say the Nets don’t have any prospects, just that The Athletic writer thinks they’re not as good as other teams. Nor does it say you can’t contend with young players. (If you’re wondering, the team with the best prospects is the Mavericks with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, among others.)

Here’s Vecenie’s main take on Brooklyn (which is the third oldest and third most experienced team in the league, behind only the two L.A. teams.)

The Nets were a bit higher on this list prior to cashing in some of their young chips, including Allen, for James Harden. But following that move, there isn’t a lot of upside.

The Nets, who Vecenie ranked 11th a year ago, gave up control of all their first round picks through 2027 to Houston, four swaps every other year starting this year, and unprotected firsts in 2022, 2024 and 2026.

Individually, Vecenie likes some of the players already in the rotation, starting with Bruce Brown, who’s 24, and Landry Shamet, who’s 23.

Brown is a good defensive player who has proven himself to be a bear to play against but can be a liability on offense due to his lack of shooting. He’s arguably even more important for the Nets now due to their perimeter defenders being Harden and Kyrie Irving, and he’s carved out a nice role in their rotation. Shamet has been bad to start the season and is something of a defensive liability due to his lack of strength. He’s been known as a shooter, but over the last year-plus, he’s made just 36.4 percent from distance on 401 attempts.

Those numbers for Shamet came before his recent stretch where he’s shot better than 40 percent from deep. As for the Nets bigs, 21-year-old Nic Claxton and 20-year-old Reggie Perry, the Nets second picks the last two years, Vecenie likes Claxton a lot. Always has.

Claxton certainly has more upside than they do as an athletic 6-foot-11 center with terrific mobility, shot-blocking ability and the potential to shoot it. But he hasn’t been able to earn a role for the Nets yet. I placed a first-round grade on him in 2019 and am a believer in his potential long term, but it’s going to take time...

Perry was incredibly productive in college and can handle for a big, but he needs to keep improving his jumper to have a shot as an offense-first big.

He sees Chris Chiozza, who’s 25, as a “solid third point guard.” And like John Hollinger last year, Vecenie doesn’t see much NBA talent in the Nets four overseas stashes, headlined by Isaia Cordinier, who’s just turned 24.

For some reason, he doesn’t include Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot or Noah Vonleh even though they’re both only a few months older than Chiozza ... and TLC’s a rotation player like Brown and Chamet.

Vecenie described his qualifications for a prospect this way...

As usual within these rankings, we’re not ranking what each player is right at this second, but rather the value he has to the organization both short and long term. Guys who have established themselves already certainly get extra credit for being playable in the NBA (or in some cases, being stars in the NBA). But just because a player hasn’t established himself yet doesn’t mean he won’t in the future. Particularly, these rankings account for potential long-term upside based on my scouting insights.

The Nets are in it to win it ... this year. Kevin Durant, 32, James Harden 31, and Kyrie Irving, 28, are arguably three of the NBA’s top 10 players. Joe Harris, at 29, is one of the NBA’s best shooters ... of any era. It would be a bonus if Claxton or Perry developed and if Brown and Shamet continue to play a big role, but the Nets aren’t about the future. They’re about the now.