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Does Kennedy Chandler fit as Nets point guard in Brooklyn ... or Long Island?

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League Semifinals - Brooklyn Nets v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets roster currently features three point guards: Ben Simmons who was a three-time All-Star at the position when he played in Philly. He’s 6’11”; Spencer Dinwiddie who is regularly an NBA leader in assist/turnover ratio and minutes played. He’s 6’6”; and Dennis Smith, who is one of the best point-of-attack defenders among NBA point guards. He’s 6’2.” Two of the three are not, by any stretch, good perimeter shooters, but all are veterans at the position.

During Summer League, the Nets brought in another point guard with NBA experience: 20-year-old Kennedy Chandler who played 36 games for the Grizzlies last season at age 19. He’s a generously listed 6’0” with strong athletic gifts but not much of a shot. After shooting 38.3% from deep during his one year at Tennessee, he shot only 13.3% in the NBA and 20.7% in the G League last season before going 2-of-14 — 14.3% — in the Summer League. He didn’t shoot well from the free throw stripe either, often a telltale sign that 3-point shooting is just not a player’s bag.

So, as Brian Lewis asks Saturday morning, does Chandler fit the Nets development ethos either as the remaining two-way or an affiliate player with the Long Island Nets? As he wrote:

[H]e still has his elite athleticism, blistering speed and the skywalking 41 ½-inch vertical he flashed at the 2022 NBA Draft Combine. It’s easy to see why Brooklyn — getting back to their player development roots — would take a flier on Chandler, still just 20-years-old with tons of room to develop.

Indeed, Chandler didn’t have a bad summer in Las Vegas as the starting point guard on a team that was among the final four standing. He averaged 14.0 points, 5.4 assists (and only 1.8 turnovers,) 5.2 rebounds and even 2.0 steals, as Lewis points out. Nor does he lack for confidence or a desire to get better.

“[The key was] don’t get sped up,” Chandler told Lewis talking about his learning curve. “As a rookie I didn’t get much minutes; it was more of a learning year for me, learning from Tyus (Jones) and Ja (Morant.) So I could thank Tyus and Ja for sure just preaching to me — Tyus especially, for sure.

“I sat next to [Jones] on the plane rides after games, on the way to the game. So we talked a lot about basketball, and he was just a good mentor to me, him and Ja. So I told him the other day just from watching them, [I] don’t just watch the game; watch what they do on the court, watch what they see, the reads. I think it was like a learning year for me, and now I get to show that this year.”

Trevor Hendry, the Nets assistant coach who led the Summer League Nets, wanted Chandler to shoot. Although the Nets did win in Vegas, the experience is always going to be about development.

“Yeah, I think it’s always just confidence in his shot,” said Hendry. “He took one on the wing (last week) right in front of our bench. I loved it. Keep shooting it. I have the utmost confidence in him to shoot the 3 and make the 3, no matter if it’s in games here, preseason, wherever he goes next. That’s his thing for me, his 3-point shot; because that’s the one thing holding him back.”

For Chandler, he will continue to take what the opponent will give him. As Lewis notes, opponents other than Cleveland in the semi-finals game, played him up close, pressuring him and thus permitting Chandler to use his awesome speed to get to the rim.

“Not saying they don’t know the scout, but I’m going to use my advantage, my God-given speed to go downhill and find my teammates open. But when the 3-ball is there, I’m going to take it.”

He certainly showed how aggressive he can be...

The Nets have options with the Memphis native. If they decide not to give him the final two-way, they can invite him to their training camp, waive him and assign his G League rights to Long Island as an affiliate player. They’d lose his NBA rights but he’d learn the Nets system, work with Nets coaches as well as the performance and development staffs. And as J.R. Holden Long Island’s GM, told NetsDaily last season, finding a point guard is critical to winning in the G League.

“You have to have a point guard,” Holden said, recounting the first advice he got from previous Long Island GMs. “You need the steady point guard.”

Chandler has options too. Memphis provided him a nice financial cushion. Last year, his hometown Grizzlies gave him the most lucrative contract of any second rounder: $7.1 million over four years with the first three guaranteed. After the Grizz waived him in April, he is still owed $3.7 million — $1.7 million this season, another $2.1 million in 2024-25.

So the Nets can have patience in developing Chandler and vice versa. He more than fits their timeline. Only their two draft picks from June — 18-year-old Dariq Whitehead and 19-year-old Noah Clowney — are younger. The Nets are mulling who to sign for the third two-way, after giving deals to Jalen Wilson and Armoni Brooks. They don’t have to announce the training camp roster till the end of September.

No one is thinking Chandler is going to break into the veteran point guard rotation, but when you’re back in development mode, as the Nets most certainly are, you take a lot of chances.