In a segment with Brooklyn Nets Magazine on YES Network, Sean Marks said: “the three position needs to be addressed.” For most of the season, Bojan Bogdanovic filled the small forward spot before he was traded. For the latter portion of the season, Caris LeVert filled in at the 3 – but he may project as a small forward in the future. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson shifted from starting small forward to the power forward slot and thrived. Also, K.J. McDaniels, Archie Goodwin and Joe Harris have uncertain Net futures.
The Brooklyn Nets could look to the draft for a wing shakeup. The first round isn’t too deep with wings, but there are several interesting fringe first/early second round prospects. Many wings in this year’s draft fit the archetype of modern-day NBA wings. They possess long wingspans and ideal height. Some excelled shooting from deep. They could potentially shift to power forward in a small-ball role, like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Unfortunately, these prospects aren’t perfect, featuring glaring issues in their game. They’re fringe firsts for a reason!
Also, there are some players that project as stretch-4’s that can play small forward if necessary. The Nets’ system emphasizes shooting and attacking – they’re hoping to find players that fit that mold next Thursday.
Justin Jackson and O.G. Anunoby are two intriguing prospects with intriguing skillsets, currently slated as late lottery picks. Anunoby has fallen a bit as of late, but the Draft’s lack of wing depth could propel him to an earlier selection
Jackson, a national champion at North Carolina, is a lanky, versatile scorer. Although a bit of an older prospect at 22, Jackson improved every year, and was the Tar Heels’ go-to scoring option. He projects as a solid scorer for any team he goes to, running hard off screens and able to create off the dribble too. Jackson has been mocked as high as pick number 10 to the Sacramento Kings
O.G. Anunoby is the type of player NBA nerds (like myself) salivate over. While his raw numbers were not gaudy, his defensive upside is tremendous. Anunoby’s physical profile is great, standing at a built 6’8” with a 7’2” wingspan, ideal for small-ball 4/shutdown 3. Anunoby got after it defensively at Indiana, defending every position. His energy and aggressiveness was on full display in his two years at Indiana. Offensively, most of his offense came from hustle plays. He moves well off the ball as a cutter and runs hard in transition. Anunoby’s versatility may lend him to a role similar to Draymond Green’s “death lineup” dynamic center role. With the Nets, it may not be the “death lineup.” I’ll call a Brooklyn Nets lineup with Anunoby at center the “food coma” lineup. You’re welcome.
Anunoby’s aggressiveness may be a detriment on the defensive end. At times he bites on pump fakes on closeouts and fouls offensive players meaninglessly. Anunoby’s offense is under construction. His ball handling skills leave much to be desired, especially for a modern NBA wing player. Anunoby shot really poorly from the free throw line, and poorly outside of the restricted area. His jumper is a little bit laborious, flailing his body on the follow through. He shot decently his freshman year but tailed off in 2016-2017. Off the dribble, he doesn’t really use his length to his advantage, shying away from contact (probably due to fear of getting fouled). The major hole in Anunoby’s game is obvious. If he can’t develop a consistent jumper or an efficient slashing game off the dribble, Anunoby may be an offensive negative.
The Indiana product is still a major work in progress offensively – and coming off a torn ACL – but his ceiling is way too high for teams to overlook. Seemingly, Anunoby’s stock only improved with his injury, with much of his game still unknown against proven competition. His defensive upside will be a major key in an NBA where almost every team relies on switching and versatility. The Nets are one of those teams that would benefit greatly from the aggressiveness and lockdown potential of Anunoby. Many project him as a lottery pick, but he has dipped in some mock drafts. If O.G. Anunoby makes Brooklyn his home, he would fit right in Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks’ need for defensive versatility.
Additionally, Rodions Kurucs, the Latvian wing projected by many to be a Brooklyn Nets first round target, withdrew his name from the Draft on Monday. Let’s pour one out for Roddy Kurucs, Nets fans…
The Brooklyn Nets Sweet Spot
Semi Ojeleye is a physical beast. Look at any picture or video of the SMU junior – he could be an NFL tight end or WWE Champion. He stands 6’7” with a 6’10” wingspan, weighing 241 pounds. That’s LeBron level size. Ojeleye excelled in his one year at SMU after transferring from Duke and was not just an athletic wonder. He staked his claim as the Mustangs’ go-to scorer, mixing in strong finishes at the rim with efficient shooting from deep. Defensively, Ojeleye possesses versatility. He fits the profile of a player that could thrive as an NBA small-ball power forward.
But with all those tools, why is Ojeleye a fringe first round talent? SMU isn’t exactly a basketball powerhouse. Ojeleye’s five best scoring games were against teams that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament 68 (Is that right? The NCAA will probably do a 128-team tournament in the future.) Ojeleye is also a bit older as a prospect and may have dominated matchups due to his sheer physical advantage. That may not work in the NBA. While Ojeleye has defensive upside, he wasn’t impressive on that side of the ball. He often suffered defensive lapses, lacking in focus at times. That could be a major blow to his potential as a 3-and-D player.
While Ojeleye does have his flaws, he would be a solid first-round pickup for the Brooklyn Nets. He could be a super role player if developed properly, and a solid, modern NBA forward. Ojeleye’s SMU coach Tim Jankovich lauded his work ethic, setting an example for his teammates. In the Nets’ search for culture, a strong work ethic fits the ideals of Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks. Ojeleye’s powerful presence may be a win for the Brooklyn Nets.
While they may not be as sexy as they once were, stretch forwards still have utility in today’s NBA game. Tyler Lydon projects as a stretch 4/microwave 3 as an NBA player. The Syracuse sophomore excelled as a spot-up shooter, displaying a nice, consistent shot. His size allows for clean looks from the perimeter, simply shooting over closeouts. At this stage, Lydon is decently mobile, which bodes well for his pick and roll defense and his ability to play as a roll man on offense. He also moves pretty well off the ball, which is a nice complement to his shooting. Hypothetically, he could catch defenders sleeping and cut backdoor. He also was a solid passer, diversifying his game a little bit.
Like many stretch 4’s, Lydon really could struggle defensively. Syracuse is infamous for their use of zone defense, so not much has been seen on Lydon’s defensive potential. His block numbers may be a little inflated due to him constantly being in the paint, rather than glued to a defender. Lydon also isn’t the quickest moving laterally, which hinders his defensive upside. While he is a knockdown shooter, Lydon may become a bit predictable offensively. Additionally, he measured the highest body fat percentage in the NBA Draft Combine, so his conditioning may be an issue going forward.
The Brooklyn Nets need shooting. Tyler Lydon can bring that to Barclays Center, pairing well with Nets that thrive attacking the paint. But of course, Lydon could be a defensive liability, and his upside may not be as enticing as others at pick 27. The Nets have worked Lydon out already, so there is some interest. If drafted at 27, he’ll be right in his expected range.
Second Round Wild Wings
Shoutout to Kuzma for having the closest name to “Kyle Korver” in the NBA Draft. Kuzma is a true tweener, a long player with ideal length, but with enough versatility to slide to the small forward spot. He plays the perimeter and can attack off the dribble and take the ball to the cup. Kuzma is a solid rebounder, boxing out and showing a nice nose for the ball. Kuzma also shows really nice passing vision, especially in the post and off the dribble. For a 6’10” player, Kuzma’s skillset is diverse, hinting a solid role as an NBA player.
As a shooter, Kuzma has lots of room for improvement. His three-point shot looks good, but it didn’t sink often. Tinkering his jumper may be a necessity. Kuzma’s tweener status may hurt him on the defensive end. He isn’t a great athlete, lacking the quickness to guard the perimeter, and bulk to defend larger power forwards. The NBA’s best tweeners have the versatility to defend both positions at a decent level – Kuzma may struggle to defend both as a pro.
Kuzma’s ceiling could be a decent role player. His athletic and shooting limitations hinder his long-term potential. But Kuzma was productive in a tough Pac-12 conference, showcasing tremendous ability as a scorer and rebounder. Kuzma could be a potential Brooklyn Nets fit with his strong IQ, maturity and translatable skills. He does project as an early second rounder, but of course, the Nets aren’t afraid of reaching in the draft.
The Kansas State senior projects as more than just a 3-and-D prospect. Iwundu did it all, scoring efficiently, distributing, rebounding and defending. He wasn’t a breathtaking scorer, but Iwundu excelled in the open floor, displaying his great length and solid handle. Iwundu posted solid athletic numbers at the draft combine, while also impressing with an ideal 7’1” wingspan. That length highlights his defensive versatility, pairing athleticism with aggressiveness and a solid motor. Additionally, Iwundu can finish strong at the rim with solid explosiveness and a bit of craft to his attacks at the rim.
Possibly the biggest limitation Iwundu may face is his frame. A skinny 193 pounds, Iwundu may suffer against NBA-caliber athletes. While Iwundu excelled in the open floor and as a distributor, he was turnover prone, often a little overzealous on the fast break or in the pick and roll. Additionally, Iwundu also is still working on his jumper. Prior to his senior season, he only shot 66 shots from deep in his first three seasons at K-State. Mechanically, he seems to fling his arm forward a little, so his shot lacks a little bit of arc.
Out of the 2017 Draft’s second round wings, Iwundu may have the most upside. His Mr. Do It All ability in college fits perfectly in the Nets’ offense, which emphasized players that can attack off the dribble. Iwundu does that along with playing solid defense. Iwundu has already worked out with the Brooklyn Nets, so the team has shown its interest. His versatility and length would fit in the modern offensive and defensive schemes of the Brooklyn Nets.
One of many Oregon draft prospects, Dillon Brooks was the Ducks’ leading scorer and played a major part in their Final Four run. He also led the entire NCAA Tournament in points scored. He does a little bit of everything, shooting well from the field and decently from deep, while also keeping his turnovers relatively low. Brooks recorded a 37.5” vertical leap at the Draft Combine and was a tough finisher at the rim. He thrived in isolation situations, possessing really promising scoring instincts. Defensively, Brooks uses his strong frame and solid footwork on-ball.
Part of evaluating college players is assessing their stats in context with their role. Brooks was the focal point of Oregon’s offense, with a usage rate of over 30 percent – as an NBA player Brooks is unlikely to have such a heavy role in the offense unless he’s an isolation bench scorer. He’ll have to shift to a much more limited role, and his shift to a less dominant role could determine his NBA career. At the NBA Draft Combine, Brooks recorded a neutral wingspan–a bit of a defensive deterrent. Brooks isn’t too quick, so he may be pegged exclusively as a small forward in his career, and not as a small-ball 4 or big shooting guard. He did play a bit of power forward at Oregon, but that may not be plausible against NBA athletes.
The Brooklyn Nets love their culture. Just listen to any Sean Marks press conference and the culture talk will make one dizzy. Dillon Brooks was extremely vocal on the court, showing his competitive fire and raw emotion. According to Basketball Insiders, some teams weren’t too keen on that. But the Nets liked Brooks enough to bring him in for a workout. Brooks’ transition from number-one option to role player will be one to watch as he enters the NBA Draft.
Deeper Second Round Dives
Dwayne Bacon is tough. He’s the player I consider a “get buckets” type of guy, someone with a sheer knack for scoring. A solid one-on-one scorer, Bacon possesses all the playground/old-man moves – Eurosteps, jab steps, floaters, spin moves, you name it. Bacon is able to use screens to find spaces to create. He finishes through contact and shot over 60 percent at the rim in his sophomore year at Florida State. That creativity as a scorer is aided by Bacon’s strong frame and rock-solid athleticism. His 6’10” wingspan may be a plus for him possibly shifting to the power forward slot on occasion, and for versatile defense as well.
Much like Dillon Brooks, Bacon was another high usage player that will have to adjust his role to thrive in the NBA. His lack of shooting decreases his scoring upside, although his mechanics may just need a slight tweak. One overarching flaw in Bacon’s game is his overall awareness. Offensively, he’s prone to poor selection and isn’t really the most adept off-ball defender. At 22 years old by the start of the season, his basketball IQ may not improve over time. Unlike others here, Bacon may not have the three-ball or the defense to be an effective NBA role player.
For an end of draft prospect, Bacon has intriguing upside. His go-to scoring ability may translate to the NBA if he can adapt to a simpler role. While there are issues on his defense, solid coaching could help him with his consistency. For a 10-15 minute a night player, Bacon could carve a role due to his physical dimensions and knack for scoring. If the Brooklyn Nets decide to keep pick 57, Dwayne Bacon would be a solid option to have as a flier or a D-League two-way contract player.
From a physical standpoint, Devin Robinson checks all the boxes. A former five-star recruit, his size, wingspan and weight compare favorably to Otto Porter Jr., a potential Nets free agent target. His max vertical leap of 41-inches was only second to Frank Jackson for Draft candidates (Hamidou Diallo, of course, withdrew from the draft. Let’s pour some more out for Hami-time.) At Florida, Robinson wasn’t the team’s go-to scorer, yet still made a solid impression. His shooting stroke benefits from his long frame, where he developed a jumper in his three collegiate seasons. It may look a little wonky, but it works for him. And of course, with Robinson’s length and athleticism, he could be an ideal versatile defender from positions 2-5.
Robinson is a bit limited offensively, mostly a spot-up shooter, unable to create offense off the dribble. Like with many of these players, Robinson is intriguing defensively – but not exactly proven. His thinner frame hurt him as a defender at the power forward slot, and his lane agility numbers were one of the worst at the NBA Draft combine. That shows his rather mediocre lateral quickness. He also wasn’t that great of a pick and roll player either. And again, Robinson may be lacking in consistency. On defense, he sometimes missed rotations and was prone to ball watching on the perimeter. Offensively, Robinson also wasn’t active at times, possibly indicating a low motor and subpar intensity.
Devin Robinson has all the tools of a successful NBA player. His shooting, frame, and versatility should lead to him being selected higher than his current projections. But he lacks in consistency and production and could be more of a great role player in a vacuum, rather than in real life. Like many of the prospects here, Robinson visited the HSS Training Center for a pre-draft workout. For Kenny Atkinson’s Nets, Robinson could be an interesting developmental prospect. If a coaching staff can light a fire under him to spark his intensity, Robinson could be a solid pro.
The Brooklyn Nets have worked out plenty of prospects leading up to the draft. Many of them fill the small forward/stretch forward slots, but have noticeable flaws in their games. So far, the Nets have worked out four of these prospects – Lydon, Iwundu, Robinson and Brooks.
While it may be a reach to select several of these players with the 22nd or 27th pick, Sean Marks isn’t afraid to dip deep into the draft well. In the Nets’ quest for athleticism, length and shooting, the wing might be Brooklyn’s biggest area of need.
For more on The Brooklyn Game’s Nets 2017 Draft hopes, check out the latest TBG Roundtable!
Here’s a look at what I’ve written so far in my cross-site NBA Draft Guide!
Up next in my Draft Guide: Top Bigs on NetsDaily