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ANALYSIS: A post-Summer League scouting report

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NBA: Summer League-Washington Wizards at Brooklyn Nets Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my first post-Summer League full Nets scouting report. In this article, I’m going to cover every relevant Nets prospect that player in Summer League, as well as project how their skills will translate in the NBA (or G League).

Cam Thomas

Cam Thomas was without a doubt the star of Summer League. The former LSU guard was named co-MVP alongside Kings rookie Davion Mitchell, named to the All-Summer League first team, and averaged 27.0 points through four games: the most in the 2021 Summer League and third-most all time.

With the 27th pick, the Nets could have selected an older player with a higher chance of immediately contributing on a contending team. Instead, knowing the hit rate of any player in the late first round, they shot for the stars.

Well, Cam Thomas is a moonshot if I’ve ever seen one. When he has it going, Thomas can score the ball at an elite level. He’s a true three-level scorer who can get to the rim at ease, find his sweet spot from mid-range, or elevate from three.

There are questions about how his game will translate to the NBA and on the Nets roster. Summer League is historically an environment favorable to “bucket getters” like Thomas, and his efficiency wasn’t staggering — only 0.99 PPP when scoring, per Synergy Sports.

However, he’s still a high-level advantage creator, one of the most sought-after skills in the NBA. If the Nets coaching staff and Thomas’ potential mentors (that’s you, “Big Three”) can bottle up the best parts of his game, his poor shot selection and efficiency in summer league will be an afterthought.

I’d like to see more of this kind of off-ball movement from Thomas in the regular season:

Thomas can fully realize his scoring potential using his knack to get to the free throw line, which he already owns at the young age of 19. Thomas has already mastered contorting his body in the air when under the basket to draw a whistle, even with the NBA implementing new rules regarding fouls.

In Summer League, Thomas averaged 9.8 free throw attempts per contest, the second-most among all players, first among rookies. He has shot well from the stripe in both college and now this summer, and this skill should translate to the NBA with his ability to create separation on the perimeter and downhill momentum towards the basket.

Critics of Thomas at the collegiate level questioned his playmaking, which isn’t fiction. In Vegas, Thomas could occasionally be prone to having tunnel vision forcing a shot, but his playmaking habits improved as the week progressed.

Defense is the biggest concern with Thomas. His effort, even his body language, on the perimeter is poor, especially after offensive mistakes. He has the body and to be adequate on that end, though, so it is not a lost cause by any means.

Ultimately, I think Thomas will get run with in Brooklyn’s rotation this season but don’t expect him to be a key member of the team in the postseason just yet.

Day’Ron Sharpe

Sharpe was the second of Brooklyn’s two draft selections in the first round, coming only two spots Thomas at no. 29. His most NBA-ready skill is by far his rebounding, primarily on the offensive end. His Summer League averages consisted of 3.8 offensive boards per contest, consistent with his play in college; 3.3 offensive rebounds per game, and a 18.1 ORB percentage. Sharpe’s raw motor and energy is obvious, and a huge reason part of his rebounding prowess.

Besides the rebounding, the rest of his offensive game is still very much a work in progress - as is to be expected for a player of his age and draft position. After showing flashes of passing touch at the collegiate level, we saw those those playmaking chops in short bursts.

Before the Summer League, Sharpe told the media he is looking to extend his jump-shooting range after only attempting two threes and shooting 50.5 percent from the free throw line in his sole college season. He showed touch from range in the Summer League, nailing two shots outside the key — but went 0-of-2 from behind the arc. Chalk his shooting up as something to look out for long-term in an NBA where being able to shoot from any of the five positions is of utmost importance.

Sean Marks has posited that Sharpe could see playing time to help the Nets on the glass, as rebounding is not a strength of Brooklyn’s roster. If he wants to earn consistent rotational minutes, though, his defensive play will have to improve. His ability to get low and use his physicality is an aid on the boards but kills him in pick-and-roll coverage, where he struggled with his stance and positioning. He has consistently shown good verticality when defending at the rim — both in college and Summer League — when rotating as a help-side deterrent, but likely won’t be tasked with much of that with the Nets, where solid team defense isn’t a given.

Kessler Edwards

Next up is Kessler Edwards, the first of the Nets’ second-round selections at No. 49. Out of the draft, many pegged Edwards as a steal for Brooklyn, after three promising seasons at Pepperdine. Like me, the Nets brass must’ve liked what saw from Edwards in the Summer League — as he was signed to one of the team’s two two-way contracts for the season. He’ll be able to bounce between the Long Island Nets in the G League and the big club all year.

Edwards projects as a prototypical 3+D forward, a welcome sight on any NBA contender. His three point shooting struggled in Vegas — Edwards shot the long ball at a 30.8% clip - but should improve in the NBA. Summer League is historically an environment where on-ball creators thrive, and off-ball shooters like Edwards can have a more difficult time shooting, especially as his form is more accustomed to set shots instead of off-the-dribble.

Edwards’ free throw percentage (which is historically an even better indicator of shooting skill than three point percentage) improved every year at Pepperdine. Edwards went from being a 69 percent shooter at the line to nailing 87 percent of his free throws, which continued in Summer League — where he shot 88.9 percent. If he sees the floor for the Nets, expect his 3-point shooting to jump back into the high 30s in percentage.

His on-ball creation is limited, but won’t be necessary on a Nets team already headlined by some of the best scorers and creators of all time.

As for the defensive end, the sky is the limit for Edwards. HIs lateral quickness and versatility both impressed in Summer League, which was consistent with his college play, where he averaged 1.0 steals and 1.2 blocks in his junior season at Pepperdine.

David Duke Jr.

Duke Jr. was by far the biggest surprise of the Nets Summer League, especially in the first few games. The 6’5” undrafted swingman out of Providence proved his worth in Vegas with a combination of defensive intensity and overall feel for the game. His on-ball defense impressed the most, especially in a half-court setting. He’s an athlete (39” max vertical as tested at the Combine) who can sky in for a rebound and then bring the ball up in transition, where he’s at his best as a creator and finisher (completed 64 percent of fast break his shots at rim at Providence).

The biggest question in Duke’s game is his offensive utility in a half court setting. His shooting as questionable at best, with respectable efficiency at the college level (but a horrendous 11 percent in Vegas) with some slow mechanics, but a promising high release points. He projects as a below-average pick-and-roll ball handler as well with his low efficiency from the field. With his natural instincts, athleticism, and coordination, though, I could see him developing into a primarily cutting-based on offense with the Nets, similar to how Bruce Brown was used this year.

Clearly, the Nets brass saw something that they liked out of Duke, as he was held out of the last game of Summer League — alongside Thomas and Sharpe. He is currently in the running for the other two-way contract, and will likely spend time this year in the G League with the Long Island Nets.

Alize Johnson

Speaking of being used in a cut-heavy role on offense, there’s Alize Johnson — a player of that exact mold. After seemingly holding tryouts for the last three roster spots post-Harden trade last season, Johnson was ultimately held onto after two 10-day contracts with the team. He impressed in his Nets debut, a throw-away game against the Jazz, and later in a revenge game against the the Pacers, posting a 20-20 stat line.

Offensive rebounding is his biggest strength, a natural development considering his frenzied — but sometimes out of control — energy heading to the rim. His frantic movements can free him up for easy put-ins, but oftentimes will have him spinning into a defender or committing a loose ball foul.

Johnson provided good relief last season for Brooklyn after proving himself in the G League bubble, but his ceiling is capped. It’d be wise for the Nets to look in another direction with his roster spot.

Marcus Zegarowski

Zegarowksi was selected with the 49th pick by the Nets in their second-to-last second round selection. The 6’2, 180 pound guard out of Creighton showcased a steady handle and continued excellent long-range shooting.

His 40 percent accuracy from behind the arc in all three years in college continued in Vegas, both off-the-catch and off-the-bounce. Starring in the backup point guard role for the summer Nets, Michael Carter-Williams brother looked comfortable controlling the offense but prone to turnovers. Handling in the pick-and-roll, if there was no pull-up jump shot, he often looked to throw a skip pass and/or hit a shooting lifting on the weak side, rarely opting to venture into the paint.

Good upside and will likely spend the season with Long Island.

Reggie Perry

Lastly, there is Reggie Perry. Brooklyn’s 57th selection in the 2020 NBA draft, Perry actually saw limited rotational minutes last season for a stretch of games as the Nets suffered with depth at center. He had some flashes as a pick-and-roll finisher, but James Harden makes every big man looks good in the two-man action.

The Nets reportedly rescinded his qualifying offer during Summer League, and then he did not see action until Brooklyn’s last summer matchup against Toronto, when he came off the bench.

I wouldn’t be surprised in Perry has seen his last days with the Nets organization.

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Despite the conventional wisdom that the Nets had no picks after the James Harden trade, they wound up five this year. Surprisingly, they went out and splurged, using all of them, then brought in Duke. In fact, the haul was the Nets biggest in a long time, maybe since the Draft was reduced to two rounds back in 1989. It also may turn out to be their best in a while, too.