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Nets rookies did their job. Now as rotations shorten, their minutes are dropping

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

It is now crunchtime. As long as players are healthy — and eligible, it’s when head coaches shorten their rotations, rely more on their stars and less on their rookies. As good as the Nets three draft picks and one undrafted free agent have been, they’re likely to see fewer minutes and opportunities.

Cam Thomas, whose resume’ includes 10 games of 20+ points, may still get minutes in games without Kyrie Irving, but both Kessler Edwards, who started 20 games, and Day’Ron Sharpe who had two double-doubles and two other games where he grabbed 10 boards, have dropped out of the rotation. Sharpe and David Duke Jr., who also had two double doubles early, are now playing with Long Island in the G League. They did their jobs at a time when the team was devastated by injuries, COVID and controversy.

As Mark W. Sanchez of The Post writes Saturday, their numbers are dwindling...

Thomas was not listed on the injury report ahead of the Nets’ win Thursday in Philadelphia (he suffered a back contusion Sunday, but had rebounded from it), yet he did not enter until the fourth quarter.

Edwards, selected 44th overall, logged five and a half minutes in the blowout, his longest run in a week and a half. The 21-year-old forward with good length has started 20 games this season, but he has barely played since Kevin Durant returned, while Bruce Brown has emerged as the top small forward.

The undrafted Duke also has a two-way contract, and both he and Sharpe have been relegated to the G-League recently. When Simmons makes his Nets debut (if he does), there will be no spot for Duke, who is a good defender, but not a shooter. And Sharpe has been replaced by Andre Drummond.

Considering the Nets had (and now again have) three top All-NBA players at the top of the roster, the season’s ups-and-downs helped the team develop promising players at very low cost. None of the four make more than $2 million this season.

One question that fans have wondered about now seems likely to be solved in the off-season: whether Edwards will get a standard NBA deal before April 11 when teams have to present their playoff rosters to the league. As a two-way player, he is not eligible for the post-season.

It does not seem likely, as Sanchez wrote, that the Nets will clear a roster spot to sign Edwards full-time. In that case, the Nets won’t have him in the playoffs but they will have a chance to sign him as restricted free agent in July. Of course, there is a risk that some other team will outbid them.

Meanwhile, in Long Island, the Nets are developing a number of young players who fans might see in training camp, including seven-footer Thon Maker who has 263 games worth of NBA experience and combo guard Craig Randall II who’s gone from tryout player to one of the G League’s top scorers. Both are 25.