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DRAFT WATCH #2 - Who’s been in for workouts?

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 20 Div I Men’s Championship - Second Round - Ohio State v Villanova Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Yet another pundit has checked in on the Nets upcoming decision on whether to defer the first rounder acquired in the James Harden-for-Ben Simmons blockbuster: The Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck reports Tuesday that it is “likely” the Nets will defer the pick, now No. 23, at some point before the June 1 deferral deadline.

Just over a week out from the deadline, I’ve been told it’s relatively likely the Nets will opt to defer that pick to next season, a big enough chance that the Sixers are actively preparing to be armed with that chip this summer. Should they have it, it clears up what will be one of their most important bartering chips to upgrade the roster around Joel Embiid and Harden, whether it’s to select another young, cost-efficient player (at 23 or potentially higher up the board) or package that pick in a bigger deal for a ready-made vet.

Of course, the Nets aren’t likely to factor the benefits to Philly in their decision. They’d likely defer because 1) the 2023 Draft class is seen as a better, deeper draft and 2) the 76ers good fortune depends on a healthy Joel Embiid and a healthy James Harden. Considering Embiid’s long-term health struggles and James Harden’s more recent ones, the 76ers may not be the same juggernaut in 2022-23.

Still, despite all the punditry pointing to a deferral (or a more likely scenario, a trade using either the unprotected 2022/23 pick and/or the Sixers 2027 protected pick), the Nets keep working players out at HSS Training Center. As he opened his and Steve Nash’s May 11 press conference, Sean Marks noted they had just come from a workout. Our Chris Milholen was able to do some social media sleuthing and found one prospect, Trevor Hudgins, Northwest Missouri State’s 6’0” point guard and back-to-back Division II Player of the Year, who had been in that morning.

The Nets under Marks keep a tight wrap on their workout schedules, a far cry from Rod Thorn and Billy King who had their director of player personnel, Gregg Polinsky, brief reporters after every workout. That said, the prospects, their agents and hometown writers can tweet or otherwise inform the public that they were in Brooklyn for workouts.

So, doing some more internet sleuthing, we’ve come up with a list of 32 prospects the Nets have reportedly had in for workouts. We don’t know what percentage that is of the total number of workouts, but it’s probably somewhere around a third to a half, based on previous detective work. In 2018, we reported on May 24 that the number of prospects had reached 50. The Nets had three picks going into that draft, at Nos. 29, 40 and 45 and came out with Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs. So maybe they’re not working out as many this year. Doubt that, the Nets, as do other NBA teams, scout and work out not just for the 60 players chosen on the third Thursday in June but for places on their Summer League and G League rosters as well.

All that said, here’s the list of players the Nets have worked out per reports, with their vitals, position and place on the latest ESPN 100...

LOTTERY:

Malaki Branham, 6’5” SF, Ohio State freshman (13)

FIRST ROUND:

Tari Evans, 6’8” PF, LSU sophomore (18)

Terquavian Smith, 6’4” SG, North Carolina State freshman (22)

Bryce McGowens, 6’7” SG, Nebraska freshman (29)

SECOND ROUND:

Josh Minott, 6’8” PF/SF, Memphis freshman (47)

Michael Foster Jr., 6’8” PF, G League Ignite 19 years old (50)

Dereon Seabron, 6’7” PF, North Carolina State sophomore (55)

Ron Harper Jr, 6’5” SF, Rutgers senior (57)

UNDRAFTED, BUT TOP 100:

Keon Ellis, 6’8” SG, Alabama senior (62)

Collin Gillespie, 6’3” SG, Villanova senior (64)

John Butler Jr., 7’1” PF, Florida State sophomore (70)

Julian Champagnie, 6’8” PF, St. John’s junior (71)

Aminu Mohammed, 6’5” PG, Georgetown freshman (75)

Gabe Brown, 6’8” SF, Michigan State junior (80)

Jared Rhoden, 6’6” SG, Seton Hall senior (84)

Iverson Molinar, 6’3” SG, Mississippi State junior (86)

Jalen Wilson, 6’8” SF, Kansas sophomore (**)

Hyunjon Lee, 6’7” SG, Davidson junior (92)

Trevor Hudgins, 6’0” PG, Northwest Missouri State senior (93)

Izaiah Brockington, 6’4” SG, Iowa State senior (95)

UNDRAFTED, NOT RANKED:

Buddy Boeheim, 6’6” SG, Syracuse senior

Au’diese Toney, 6’6” SF, Arkansas senior

Justin Bean, 6’7” PF, Utah State senior

Malachi Smith, 6’4” SG, Chattanooga sophomore

Brad Davison, 6’4” SF, Wisconsin senior

Trace Jackson-Davis, 6’9” F, Indiana sophomore

Caleb McConell, 6’7” SF, Rutgers senior

Paul Atkinson, 6’9” PF, Notre Dame/Yale senior

Kyler Edwards, 6’4” SG, Houston senior

Adrian Delph, 6’3” SG, Appalachian State senior

Lester Quinones, 6’5” SG, Memphis junior

JD Notae, 6’2” SG, Arkansas senior

Assuming this sample reflects that Nets overall workout schedule, a few things stand out: the list has only one lottery prospect: Malaki Branham, Ohio State’s wing a 6’4” shooter who ESPN describes this way: “Branham’s size, frame, length, scoring instincts and shot-making prowess off the dribble (44% FG%) and with his feet set (43%) make his game look seamlessly translatable for what the NBA is looking for at his position.”

Branham has been hovering around the end of the lottery of late and it’s always possible that he could drop and so an invite to contending team with a first rounder is a smart choice. Cam Thomas, who was among the 20 top prospects invited to the Draft “Green Room” last year dropped all the way to No. 27. The only other first round prospects who’ve been in Brooklyn are LSU’s Tari Evans mocked at No. 18, NC State’s Terquavian Smith mocked at 22 and Nebraska’s Bryce McGowens, another wing slotted in at No. 29.

In fact, there are a lot of wings, primarily shooters, on the list above. At least 20 of the 27 can be classified as shooting guards or small forwards. None of the prospects we found topped 6’9” either. There are three point guards and no centers in the group.

The group skews older as well. Barnham and McGowens, the two projected first rounders, are the rare freshman in the group. Terquavian Smith of NC State and Josh Minott of Memphis is another. There’s also a G League Ignite player, 19-year-old Michael Foster Jr., also a PF.

Finally, there are the locals: Ron Harper of Rutgers, Julian Champanie of St. John’s (and Bishop Loughlin High School near Barclays Center), and Jared Rhoden of Seton Hall. You can add Buddy Boeheim, son of the Syracuse coach Jimmy Boeheim, if you consider Syracuse local.

What does it all tell you ... assuming again this is a good sample? You can never have too many shooters! The Nets seem focused on finding more shooters. They should be loaded at the point with Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons and they already have two young centers, 23-year-old Nic Claxton (assuming he returns) and 20-year-old Day’Ron Sharpe, who they’re looking to develop. (This Draft has some bigs, of course, but they are way at the top of the first round.)

It also says the Nets are looking to fill out those other two rosters, the one in the summer and the one in Long Island. Beyond that, there are two other points to make: the Nets have a database that tracks players from college through the Draft into the pros. They have scouting reports, video, interview summaries and character profiles which can become valuable when the prospects becomes a player. Nets personnel can dip into the database to get background information and chart how much the player has developed since they were in college. The personnel may change, but the database lives on forever.

The other? Things change, particularly on Draft Night and particularly for the Nets. Marks’ history shows that he makes his big moves the last week of June and first week of July. The Harden-for-Simmons blockbuster was a rare trade deadline deal for him. But if they do keep it, the 23rd pick would be the highest pick the franchise used since Draft Night 2013 when the Nets selected Mason Plumlee at No. 22 — and King orchestrated the trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

In two days, the Nets will have made their decision on deferring the pick. Maybe they trade it. Even if they don’t use the pick this year, the workouts won’t be a waste. The organization will have had a good look at a lot of players who may wind up on one of their rosters going forward. After all, the Nets had four players on some sort of rookie deal last year to fill out the roster, fill in for injured and otherwise unavailable players (and save some money).