RaiQuan Gray, the 59th pick in last year’s NBA Draft, had himself a solid game Sunday in Long Island’s win over Team Ignite, the G League’s vaunted development team. Gray 22, finished the game with a box score line of 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block.
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Gray, a 6’8” forward, has some nice skills for a big man, particularly with his passing. A bulky 270 pounds, he can also battle underneath. He and 6’2” shooting guard Marcus Zegarowski who’s been hurt of late, were signed directly to Long Island at the end of the summer. The contracts are team-friendly in that the Nets continue to hold their draft rights while having them play according to the Brooklyn playbook. And they don’t count on the team’s salary cap.
So what’s up with them? The Nets already know that they got three very solid players at Nos. 27 (Cam Thomas); No. 29 (Day’Ron Sharpe) and No. 44 (Kessler Edwards) last July. Did their good fortune extend to late picks?
Alec Schiffer in his summary of the Nets road trip Monday veered off a little bit at the end to discuss their chances.
I asked a scout who recently watched Long Island to weigh in on Zegarowski and Gray. For the season, Gray is averaging 9.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game on 47 percent shooting. Zegarowski is averaging 11.6 points per game while shooting 37 percent from the field and 3.
“Zegarowski hasn’t shot it well, but is a better shooter than his numbers indicate,” the scout said. “Problem is he’s small and not very athletic. RaiQuan plays really hard, but doesn’t really have a position.”
Still as Schiffer and his colleague at The Athletic, John Hollinger, have written, the Nets seem to have some interest in them beyond their current tenure in Long Island. The Nets could have brought them up when ten players went into COVID health & safety protocols but chose not to. Here’s why, as Hollinger and Schiffer both wrote in the last week
Because the Nets have their draft rights, signing either to a 10-day contract during the team’s December COVID outbreak would have caused Brooklyn to lose them once the deals ended.
So they went with players who they called up from other G League teams even though Zegarowski and Gray would’ve been a better fit, with Brooklyn and Long Island using those same playbooks, same schemes, same jargon.
The two are essentially draft stashes, trade pieces as well as development pieces. Their trade value is limited, but it’s there. Rather than sacrifice the two second round picks they control over the next six years, Sean Marks could substitute a stash in deals that could involve their three trade exceptions: $11.5 million, $6.3 million and $1.3 million. And Zegarowski and Gray certainly would have more value than at least two of the Nets three overseas stashes. So hanging on to their rights make sense, particularly with the trade deadline approaching.
In the meantime, there’s the question of what the Nets will do once they move Paul Millsap, either in a trade (which the Nets would prefer) or by simply releasing the soon-to-be 37-year-old. If there’s a roster opening, there seems little doubt that Kessler Edwards would get it and maybe even a multi-year deal. That would create a new opening in the second two-way slot. Schiffer thinks that Craig Randall II, who’s been tearing up the G League, is the likely call-up. In the victory over Team Ignite, he scored a game-high 22 points, the ninth time in the last 10 games where he’s scored 20 or more points.
Perhaps the Long Island player with the best chance to get a call-up is Craig Randall, who is averaging 27 points per game on 47 percent shooting. Randall is athletic and can defend multiple positions as a 6-foot-4 guard. He might be Long Island’s best shot at getting a call-up.
Of course, the Nets will likely give a look-see at Thon Maker, the 7’1” big who Long Island signed over the weekend. Long Island head coach Adam Caporn called Maker, who like him is Australian, “a great player.” In the meantime, the Nets will continue to monitor Zegarowski and Gray. Indeed, Marks was on hand for the Team Ignite game Sunday.