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Are Nets targeting Dereck Lively II?

2023 NBA Draft Combine Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Nets and the Knicks always have an advantage in the days before the Draft. The best prospects are gathering in New York for their big night at Barclays Center. So the two teams with training facilities in the area can request a prospect drop by for a workout, an interview, as part of a final gut check for the teams.

For example: just before the Draft in 2021, things were a bit unsettled in the Nets Draft Room. They had the 27th pick and everyone believed they wanted Day’Ron Sharpe out of North Carolina at that pick. But behind closed doors, the Nets also had interest in Cam Thomas of LSU. So, they set up an interview with him for Tuesday. They were more than adequately impressed. Then, the morning of the Draft, the Nets traded Landry Shamet for a second pick and took Thomas at No. 29 after taking Sharpe at No. 27.

Is history repeating itself this year?

This Tuesday, Marc J. Spears reported that Dereck Lively II was at HSS doing a last minute workout with Brooklyn, which is far odder than having Thomas in. Lively is currently mocked at between Nos. 6 and 15, ESPN has him at No. 10, saying that’s the beginning of his range. Here’s what Jeremy Woo wrote in their latest mock draft.

His range is believed to begin with the Mavericks — he could provide a long-term answer at center — and his responsibilities would be made easy by playing alongside Luka Doncic. The Magic (No. 11), the Thunder (No. 12) and Hawks (No. 15) are also believed to have interest, and it seems unlikely Lively falls too far out of the lottery, if at all.

So why would the Nets have someone that far out of their range in for a last minute workout, which is a strong indication of interest? And why Lively, a legitimate 7-footer who averaged only 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds on 66/15/60 shooting splits?

First things first. It seems obvious that the Nets want to move up but if Lively is the target, Sean Marks & co. will have to do a big deal. There is ample evidence that they’re prepared to do just that, with ESPN and other outlets, including NetsDaily, reporting that Brooklyn is willing to package their picks at No. 21 and 22 along with either Dorian Finney-Smith or Royce O’Neale to get a higher pick.

As Brian Lewis reports Thursday, the Nets have been making calls.

After The Post reported they had done their due diligence by checking in with at least four teams sitting between 10 and 16 in the draft, now comes reports they may have spoken with No. 17 as well.

But if the target is indeed Lively, then they’d have to get something done at around No. 10, where the Mavs picks or even No. 7 where the Pacers currently sit. Do the Nets have enough to get that high? ESPN and others have reported that Dallas is open to deal-making.

Woo wrote this of him and the No. 10 pick Thursday morning.

This Dallas selection has been deemed by rival teams as the most likely lottery pick to move entering draft night, with the Mavericks aiming to maximize value and searching for the highest bidder. Dallas has interest in Lively, but continues to weigh its options in trading back, looking for the right opportunity to upgrade the roster while also preferring to stay in the draft and potentially grab a player they like further down,

Derek Bast of had this to say about his potential.

Lively emerged as the anchor to Duke’s suffocating defense with his immense size and length in the middle of the floor. There isn’t much to his offensive game as things stand, however teams liked the shooting potential he flashed in workouts, but the defensive upside and size has him trending towards the late lottery as the draft approaches. The fact that he only averaged 5 ppg at Duke and under 10ppg (8.7) in EYBL seems to no longer be of any concern considering his draft projection.

Lively’s defense is helped by his length and athleticism. His wingspan was measured at 7’7”, his standing reach at 9’4” and his max vertical at 40” at the NBA Draft Combine last month. That fits with the Nets desire to build their on-court culture around defense. Here’s some highlights from his year at Duke:

Then, there’s his character, which is something the Nets want to improve in their overall culture. Also on Wednesday, Bobby Marks became emotional as he discussed his interview with Lively.

“I’ve sat with a lot of draft prospects in my career and there’s only been two — Jimmy Butler in 2011 and Dereck recently — where my emotions got the best of me, where I almost had to walk out of the room,” said Marks who was the Nets assistant GM before his ESPN gig ... and has also prepped draft prospects.”

“His father passed away in 2014, his mom Kathy was diagnosed with cancer ... thankfully, she’s in remission right now since 2022. The only child, he took care of his mom. She took care of him. It is one of the great stories of this Draft.

“Thursday means a lot to all these draft prospects but Malika you can sense this means just a little bit more to Dereck.”

How would Lively fit. The Nets have two young bigs already. Nic Claxton, who’s 24 and coming off a sterling season that saw him lead the league in shooting percentage and finished second in blocked shots. Sharpe, who’s still only 21, showed some growth last season in both Brooklyn and Long Island. As Billy Reinhardt who has written for us tweeted Wednesday, Marks has a history of “backfilling” bigs.

We’ve also seen workout videos of Claxton practicing 3-pointers this summer, just as Sharpe did last season.

And in case you’ve forgotten, the Nets have a 6’11” 26-year-old in Ben Simmons who IF healthy has some possibilities as well.

So, as we do every third Thursday in June, we await developments.