Nets’ pick swap continues to fall, but who could they target?
Here are some facts for you: the Brooklyn Nets are 8-25, tied for the NBA’s worst record with the Philadelphia 76ers, Jeremy Lin has played all of 12 games thanks to a difficult hamstring, and numberFire puts their odds of making the playoffs officially at 0.0%.
Oh, and of course, the Boston Celtics have the right to swap picks with the Nets in 2017 (duh) and outright own the selection in 2018 (ugh), two drafts that many pundits and analysts see as strong potential fruit bearers. With the Nets in the NBA’s basement, the Celtics probably have their eye on Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, or Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox — all talented, athletic point guards that Nets would certainly benefit from adding.
But what about the flipside of that haunted, ghastly coin? As of today, the Celtics sit at 21-14, good for the NBA’s 10th-best record, or, in our terms, the 21st selection in the first round. They’re certainly a hot streak away from pushing their record as high as 5th-best and an injury away from slipping into the Eastern Conference’s middle-pack — but the season has only just begun.
If the Nets are likely to end up in that 21st pick range, who might they chase?
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
Kicking things off, we’ve got Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, a 6’7+ forward with “physically ready prospects.” As a senior, Blossomgame is averaging 17.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game for a Clemson team that’s currently 13-1.
Although he’s begun to rise up the draft boards as of late, Blossomgame would be some talent to pair with the already lengthy Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert.
From Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated’s The Crossover:
“Blossomgame will turn pro as one of the draft’s more physically ready prospects, with potential as a multi-position defender and shooter that can round out a rotation. He was a probable second-rounder before pulling out of last year’s draft. His name is also excellent.”
From Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report:
“Blossomgame is averaging 17.4 points, and that’s without making many jump shots. He’s just 3-of-21 from downtown after shooting 44.6 percent from deep as a junior.
He’ll fall into the second round if his jumper never comes around. But if it does, he could wind up emerging as a routine 20-point weapon for Clemson. Teams will ultimately value his defensive tools and scoring versatility as a face-up driver and post option.”
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
The reliable nbadraft.net has the Nets snagging Michigan State’s Miles Bridges as of their last update, a 6’7 forward that’s currently averaging 16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. He’s been hampered with an ankle injury for the last couple of weeks, but his return is imminent, so there’s been plenty of time for to raise that stock. The hyper-athletic Bridges has been praised for his playmaking, but he’ll need some big-time coaching in the pros — a situation that rings similar to that of Chris McCullough.
“A powerful mix of explosiveness and strength has translated to numerous monster finishes above traffic. He’s consistently picked up easy buckets off transition, drives and putbacks. Tremendous leaping ability and motor help him pull down 8.8 rebounds and block 1.5 shots a game as well.
[. . .]
To play NBA small forward, he’ll need to improve his handle and his shot-creating in the half court.
Bridges has also looked wild with his decision-making (3.4 turnovers per game) and is prone to getting flustered when things are going wrong.
He’s a clear talent but not an obvious fit. Bridges could be a candidate to fall under the boom-or-bust umbrella by June.”
“Bridges has been a highlight reel for the Spartans early on, and his explosive leaping ability and instincts have helped him to thus far compensate for a lack of ideal height and length for a forward. He’s a nimble, powerful athlete and has been a pretty good jump shooter so far, which bodes well, but it takes a special talent to function as an undersized combo at the highest level. There’s a bit of a tendency to do too much with the ball in his hands, and Bridges has had some issues finishing against longer defenders, preferring to work around rather than through contact. If he proves he can defend twos and threes, he could be a matchup problem in the NBA, but he’s not a very natural guard. So, you see the conundrum.”
Isaiah Hartenstein, Germany
Finally, we’ve got an International prospect rounding things out. Isaiah Hartenstein is 6’11 forward with a shooting touch and, at just 18 years-old, there are high ceilings on this young athlete. He’s certainly raw at this point, but many of those same concerns about the New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis were quickly debunked. Besides — who would sanely give up Hartenstein vs. Porzingis showdowns for the next ten years?
In 2008, Hartenstein moved to Germany from Eugene, Oregon and has been in the youth system ever since, tutored by his father that was employed there to play professionally. He’s been struggling lately, so his stock has fallen. However, in that early 20’s slot, Hartenstein would be another home run lottery gamble for the Nets in the same vein of Caris LeVert and the aforementioned McCullough.
“Having played fewer than six minutes during five of Zalgiris’ last seven games, Hartenstein hasn’t been able to build much of a draft case for himself. He’s been on the radar for years, though, with 6’11” size, scoring ability and shooting range.
Skilled and versatile, he’s also a handful under the boards. But with a strong NCAA field filled with productive freshmen and sophomores, Hartenstein has become vulnerable on the draft board.”
“Hartenstein grew up in the States (his father played at Oregon) before moving to Germany, and is playing sporadic minutes for a big European club in his first taste of high-level competition. If he were a college freshman, we might be talking about him with added hyperbole: his physical tools and bag of skills as a face-up big are definitely enticing, given where the league is headed.”
And from David Hein of Ridiculous Upside:
“Hartenstein is a tremendous physical sight – the tallest player in the tournament at an even 7-foot – and will be a beast when he further bulks up his already solid frame. He offers an enticing mix offensively with a great motor to boot, is a menacing rim protector and also loves the quick outlet pass. NBA execs haven’t seen him play that much since he left Germany last season and did not get much playing time with Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas – also because of a back injury which would have kept him out of the tournament had it been played in the summer.”
In the end, it’s certainly almost too early to be checking the draft boards out seriously, but with the season slipping away and the Celtics owning another pick — why not? We’ll take a look in another month to check in on these gentleman, add a few names to the crop, and, maybe, see a few more losses from that Boston side.