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RECAP: Sean Marks and Nets ‘ecstatic’ over their FIVE picks in ‘strange draft year’

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2021 NBA Draft Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

It was a bit of a shocking night for Nets fans. While rumored salary dumps and sign-and-trades didn’t take place, what did might have been even more unexpected. After acquiring a second first rounder in a trade with the Suns, Brooklyn used all five of its picks at Nos. 27, 29, 44, 49 and 59! It had to be the most active Draft in franchise history.

Indeed, it was pretty much a Brooklyn night as the Draft returned to Barclays Center for the first time since 2019. With fans of all 30 teams pumping things up before the selections began, the Nets made a trade.

Brooklyn dealt Landry Shamet to the Phoenix Suns for Jevon Carter, a 25-year-old backup point guard known for his defense and long-range shooting, and the 29th pick in the draft.

Given that Sean Marks and the Nets now had a passel of picks, another trade seemed likely. Instead, Brooklyn went on to use picks to take a variety of players. Marks said it was all abot BPA, best player available.

“We weigh both best available and position needs. We’ve always taken the best available. That’s on our board and that’s the way we look at it. Just don’t want to miss out on opportunities,” Marks said from HSS Training Center following the draft. ”Strange draft. A strange draft year where you necessarily didn’t get to see all the guys as much as you would’ve liked. Under a normal situation, pre-pandemic sort of speak. I give our scouts a lot of credit because they did a heck of a job this year and the workload was immense,”

Here’s the GM’s assessments of his picks... and in the case of Thomas, the only one of the five in attendance, his assessment of the fit.

No. 27 — Cameron Thomas

The Nets selected Cameron Thomas — a 6’4” 210-pound shooting/combo guard from LSU — with their own 27th overall pick. During his post-draft interview, Thomas explained how Brooklyn worked him out “very early in the process” then just a week ago, interviewed him. The new Net called it a “match made in heaven.”

“Yeah, I had a workout with them very early in the process. They loved me and I loved their vibe. I felt like everything was in place. I kind of like loved them from the get-go with just that one workout I had with them. And later on we had an interview — like a week ago we had an interview. I just felt like it was just a match made in heaven. All our personalities connected,” Thomas said from the interview room at Barclays.

Feeling what he called a great vibe with Brooklyn throughout the pre-draft process, Thomas said he believes Brooklyn selected him for one simple reason ... because the team saw “a good player on the board.”

“I don’t know. I just feel like they picked me because they saw a good player on the board. So I feel like they just picked me for that reason,” said Thomas, one of only 20 players invited to the arena by the NBA.

After seeing the 19 other players from the “Green Room” get their name called and greet Adam Silver on stage with their new draft cap, Thomas got his chance. He was in fact that last player from the top 20 prospects to get the call. The former LSU Tiger said despite being the last player left on the floor, he remained in good spirits. In the end, it was worth the wait, he said and he’s eager to be a sponge and absorb the Brooklyn experience during his rookie season.

“I was pretty steady because I felt like the team I was going to is a championship-level team. We’re going to be winning games. We’re going to be playing for something. I feel like that is really going to help me out in my rookie year, to have all that experience, all the experience in the game,” Thomas said with a smile.

The 19-year-old said he doesn’t have any pre-existing relationships with his new teammates. The closest connection he has was hearing Kyrie Irving speak at a basketball camp he attended growing up.

“No, not really,’ he said when asked about relationships. “I think Kyrie came and spoke at one of the camps I was at. I forget which camp it was. That’s probably the only thing I have with him. With me being on the team now, I can really pick those guys’ brains and pick everybody’s brain about their rookie year and how — just different ways of anything. I can’t wait to get to work with those guys,” Thomas said.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Louisiana State at Michigan IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of his success at LSU — averaging 23.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 0.9 steals in 34.0 minutes per game — Thomas said he watched a lot of Nets basketball and called James Harden his favorite player. He said he’s thrilled to be teammates with the “Big Three.”

“And with me watching them so much this year, with James Harden being my favorite player, me watching Kyrie, how skilled he is, and KD, I feel like with me coming in and learning from those guys, scoring the ball-wise, it’s a match made in heaven. I can’t wait to play with some of my favorite players. It’s crazy.”

When Thomas was asked how he foresees himself fitting in, he pointed to his versatility.

“Yeah, I can just play on the ball if I need to, iso, off-ball, running off screens, catch and shoot, anything, playmaking for those guys, getting them the ball. I just feel like I’m just so complete offensively and an all-around player that coming in I can make an immediate impact with those guys and we can do some great things,” Thomas said.

Marks told the media how he is “ecstatic” to have both Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe as Nets. Marks sees Thomas fitting in very well with Brooklyn and their loaded offense.

“He has an elite skill. You watch him play. You watch him find his shot, hit his shot — that’s a very, very high level. For him to continue to learn under three of the greatest scorers the league has right now will be great for him. The other part of it is that he is fearless. He’s not afraid. I think that’s what we’re looking for. Guys with that competitive edge to them and a chip on their shoulder,” said Marks on Thomas.

“I think we’re very fortunate to have the players we have on our roster. You see how hard they work and their tireless work ethic on a daily basis. When we bring in the young bucks like we do, our players are like our player development coaches to sit there, watch those guys and learn from them,” Marks added.

No. 29 — Day’Ron Sharpe

The Nets acquired the draft rights to the 6’11” Sharpe from the Suns as part of the Shamet trade. Sharpe, who had a pre-draft workout with Brooklyn, was heavily linked to the organization leading up to the draft.

Marks said his scouts saw potential beyond what Sharpe was able to show at UNC.

“Day’Ron his size, mobility, his ability to stretch the floor, which to be quite frank hasn’t been really seen yet,” he said enumerating Sharpe’s skills. “So we’re excited to get both these guys in the gym, both continue to develop with our development coaches and go from there.”

Sharpe provides the Nets with a big body on the boards — he was the NCAA’s leading offensive rebounder. The freshman ended his one-and-done season as a Tarheel by earning All-ACC Freshman team honors, posting a scoring average of 9.5 points on 51.9 percent shooting from the field. Sharpe also recorded a team-high 26 blocks and was North Carolina’s best passer, dishing out 42 assists. Moreover, he slimmed down in recent months, losing 25 pounds.

The Nets GM explained how Brooklyn balances best available with team fit — a mix Sharpe fell under..

“We’ve always taken best available. That’s how we look at it and don’t want to miss out on the opportunity,” Marks said.

Sharpe was not at Barclays Center.

Second Round Selections — Kessler Edwards (44), Marcus Zegarowski (49) and RaiQuan Gray (59)

Brooklyn held on to all three of their second-round picks, drafting Kessler Edwards, Marcus Zegarowski and RaiQuan Gray.

Edwards — 6’8,” 200-pound forward from Pepperdine — had been viewed as a player who straddled the line between late first-round and early second. Marks admitted he drafted Edwards as a positional need player, that is as a 3-and-D possibility.

“Kessler; his ability to stretch the floor, get out there and a positional need for us,” Marks .

Zegarowski was selected with the 49th overall pick. Out of Creighton, the 6’2” guard developed a reputation as a shooter — averaging 15.8 points, on 51.6 percent shooting from the field and 42.1 percent from three. Marks said he was very attracted by how Zegarowski’s elite shooting ability could fit with the Nets, noting his competitive nature.

“Marcus; I’m sure you guys have seen him shoot at Creighton and what his ability is. [He] can really stretch the floor and is a fierce competitor. A very tough individual,” Marks said on Zegarowski, whose brother is Michael Carter-Williams of the Magic.

Gray was the second to last pick in the NBA Draft 2021, taken with the 59th overall pick by Brooklyn. The former Florida State forward stands at 6’8” and weighs 260 pounds. A bruiser, ESPN’s Jay Bilas said he fell because his body fat index was measured at 17, an extraordinarily high number for an NBA athlete . Gray averaged 11.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 blocks in 25 games played. Out of the 25 games, Gray only came off the bench once.

In Marks’ eyes, Gray is a “very unique” prospect with a diverse skillset, highlighted by his high basketball IQ.

“RaiQuan is a very unique player. Step out on the court, stretch the floor some, facilitate as a big, handle the ball — if you watched him play at Florida State, very well-coached and has a high, high basketball IQ,” Marks said of Gray.

“Kessler, Marcus and RaiQuan — we know all three of them very well. This is what we are doing our job for. We scouted them. We saw them live. We really enjoyed sitting down and meeting with these guys. Again, all three are very competitive. All three have great upside. Looking forward to developing all three. We’re really looking forward to getting those guys in the Summer League program and going from there,” Marks added.

With the NBA again permitting teams to sign 17 players — 15 standard deals and two two-ways, there’s more opportunities for second rounders. Players can be signed to a standard NBA deal, a two-way contract or directly to a G-League contract. They can also be stashed overseas although seems unlikely with this group.

Expect to see all five in Las Vegas a week from Monday when the Nets Summer League entry goes up against Memphis.