2017 was a Nets audition and opportunity for McDaniels and Goodwin

The two newest Nets, K.J. McDaniels and Archie Goodwin, used the second half of 2017 as an audition – an open letter to Sean Marks and all of the NBA’s General Managers. The two were the 20th and 21st players to wear a Nets uniform this season. As General Manager Sean Marks stated last summer, Nets management is trying to leave “no stone unturned.” That’s been even more evident throughout the season, with the Nets taking chances on Anthony Bennett and Yogi Ferrell, and trading Chris McCullough to the Wizards to open a roster spot – which facilitated the McDaniels acquisition from the Rockets.

Both McDaniels and Goodwin saw some moderate success in the NBA previously. McDaniels was a highlight machine in his half season with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2014-2015 – or year two of Sam Hinkie’s “Process.” Goodwin slowly improved in his three seasons in Phoenix before ultimately being waived (surprisingly) at the beginning of this season. Yet both were lost in the shuffle, spending time between the ends of the bench, D-League, or shifting between both. But they shouldn’t be written off just yet.

McDaniels may be the best pure athlete the Nets have had in years. (Shoutouts to Markel Brown and Gerald Green.) His effort and energy alone would fit on any team – the rest is still a work in progress. In the Nets’ game against the Utah Jazz on March 3, McDaniels dove on the floor several times – with the Nets down 20. Offensively, McDaniels will score most of his points in transition and on drives. His tenacity could make up for the Nets’ lack of offensive rebounding in the future. On the defensive end, McDaniels has had several strong moments, using his speed and leaping ability to notch some LeBron-esque chase down blocks.

He also possesses defensive versatility – the biggest buzzword in today’s NBA. Out of necessity, McDaniels played power forward in college at Clemson. While his 6-foot, 6-inch height may not be ideal for a power forward, McDaniels could be an effective player on pick and roll switches and in super-athletic small ball lineups. His 6-foot, 11-inch wingspan could be a boon (that’s my favorite Zach Lowe word) for small ball Nets lineups. He could provide the same length and effort that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson provided in the Nets post-All Star Break lineups.

Goodwin is a bit more refined on the offensive end than McDaniels. The fourth-year pro is adept at drives and drawing contact in the paint. His numbers in Phoenix may have been inefficient, but when Goodwin was hot, he could fill up the stat sheet in a pinch. Defensively, the most intriguing aspect of Goodwin’s game is his 6-foot, 10-inch wingspan. Like McDaniels, Goodwin could potentially guard multiple positions.

Does anyone else smell a trend here?

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson mentioned that Goodwin seems like “a natural point guard.” With his height, he could join Jeremy Lin, Spencer Dinwiddie, Isaiah Whitehead and maybe Milos Teodosic as a tall, long octopus-esque backcourt tandem.

One thing that Atkinson’s offense emphasizes is the three-point shooting. That’s exemplified as the Nets shot the three at one of the highest rates in the league. Making them is another story. But both McDaniels and Goodwin, like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, are players that struggle from the perimeter.

In his D-League time in 2016-2017, Goodwin shot 25 percent from three. McDaniels has not fared much better. Before McDaniels was traded to the Nets, he had the same number of dunks as three-point shots made in his career. You read that right. But the singing of those two may be indicative of the Nets’ trust in their development staff. Adam Harrington, the Nets’ director of player development could be tinkering with the players’ jumpers in practice every day. Nets fans have seen slight improvement in the jumpers of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Sean Kilpatrick. And of course, Atkinson helped in refining the jump shots of Demarre Carroll and Kent Bazemore. It may take a while, but those two could potentially become dangerous role players if they grow confidence and consistency in their shotmaking.

It may be about defense. Brooklyn’s struggles on the defensive end were well documented throughout this season. Adding two long athletes could alleviate the Nets’ defensive woes going forward. The Nets really like to switch across all positions on the defensive end. McDaniels could switch onto point guards and power forwards with ease. Goodwin could do the same, capitalizing on his wingspan. The 2014 iteration of the Brooklyn Nets were most successful because of their defensive flexibility. Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, and Paul Pierce were a fluid 1-4 lineup that would make mismatches difficult for opposing teams. The future Nets could see that as well – with an injection of more athleticism.

Watch McDaniels shuffle, recover and close out quickly, leading to an on-ball block against the Detroit Pistons

More, you ask? Well, here’s Archie Goodwin with his own block against the Detroit Pistons (AKA The One Where Brook Lopez Saved The Day)

In his 12 games with the Nets, Goodwin averaged 7.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game on a team leading 63.3 percent true shooting. He posted a solid 18.6 PER – I know, small sample size. Most noticeable was his game against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Nets’ rout of the team. (Let’s not talk about the final Bulls game.)

McDaniels averaged 6.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1 block per game in 14.7 minutes of action. McDaniels played 20 games in Brooklyn black and white (and occasionally gray and blue), shooting a 55.6 true shooting percentage. His shining moment was probably the Nets’ 23 March game against the Phoenix Suns, where he scored 16 points – it also produced a picture that would make any Clemson Tiger proud…

ONE FOE…MASK OFF!!… @35_fitz tho!!

A post shared by K.J (@kocmj) on

With the Nets, McDaniels and Goodwin played meaningful minutes that could decide their NBA futures. 2016-2017 mattered.

Moving forward

But whether these two remain Nets going forward is up in the air, especially with the Nets’ intended offseason plans. The Nets have several non-guaranteed contracts for next season – Sean Kilpatrick, Quincy Acy, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Joe Harris could all be cut before the beginning of the 2017-2018 season. It may be unlikely that the Nets decide to waive any of those players though. McDaniels himself will have a team option of $3.5 million – a relatively small number that may play a factor in the Nets’ free agency moves. Retaining Goodwin would also take another roster spot – he would earn around $1.5 million next season.

That would leave the Nets with 14 guaranteed contracts, assuming they do not re-sign Randy Foye. Brooklyn may be guaranteed to have two new additions, with their two first round draft picks. They also have one definite and one conditional second-round draft pick, from the Celtics and Pacers respectively. Additionally, the Nets will have plenty of cap space this summer. Obviously, Otto Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are the two biggest restricted free agent fish. (Unrestricted free agents Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, and Gordon Hayward are a pipe dream.) Additionally, the Nets have expressed interest in veteran but vastly different free agent point guards Milos Teodosic and George Hill.

That puts the Nets in a conundrum. With 14 players that could stay with the team, somebody must be moved to clear room for draft picks and free agents. The non-guaranteed contracts could make for nice trade fodder in the offseason. Dinwiddie, Harris, Kilpatrick and Acy have all proven to be NBA players this season and could net a decent return in the form of second-round selections. But unlike last season, those players are all Sean Marks approved players.

It’s unclear whether the Nets will retain Archie Goodwin and K.J. McDaniels next season. Their play in the back half of the Nets’ season may have determined their future. But even if the two are retained, they could ultimately be included in space-clearing moves to free up cap space. Many fans unfamiliar with the Nets may have called 2016-2017 a lost year – with no reason to tank and not enough moxie to compete. But for K.J. McDaniels and Archie Goodwin, it’s an audition and opportunity to be building blocks for the Nets’ future.