In the past few years, the Nets have made a habit of selecting seniors in the NBA Draft. But their latest workout featured three teenagers: 19-year-olds Dakari Johnson (Kentucky), George Lucas De Paula (Brazil), and Lucas Dias Silva (Brazil).
The three were joined by Stanford senior forward Anthony Brown, Wisconsin senior guard Josh Gasser, and Westchester Community College JuCo forward Luis Montero. Johnson, De Paula, and Brown are all expected to be drafted, and should be on the board for the Nets’ pick in the first round (#29).[note]They could all be available when the Nets pick in the second round as well, where the Nets hold the 41st pick. The Nets also bought the rights three second-round picks last year, using two to select Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson.[/note]
The 19-year-old de Paula is seen as a project with huge upside. He’s a 6’6″ point guard with a seven-foot wingspan (the first ever in DraftExpress’s combine database for a point guard) and sound passing instincts. But there’s a language barrier for the Brazilian guard, and he’ll take time to adjust to the NBA game.
He did mention one Nets point guard as a player he tried to model his game after. “When I was 12 or 13, I watched players like Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson,” de Paula said. “But now? Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul, I like all those guys.”
The Nets have seen de Paula at numerous stops: Chicago’s NBA Draft Combine, the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, and at the Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy last week. “I think he’s really improved, just picking things up and (with) structure,” Nets director of player personnel Gregg Polinsky said.
Polinsky also had kind words for Johnson, particularly his scoring ability.
“I think you got pretty much what’s advertised (in Johnson),” Polinsky said. “You’ve got a guy with great hands, big body, very difficult to stop when he gets an angle at the rim.”
“Obviously he’s not an elite athlete, but he makes up for it with good hands, good size, and understands where to be on the court and how to position himself,” Polinsky added. Johnson is currently projected to go 44th in the NBA Draft by DraftExpress.
Johnson played behind three top prospects in Kentucky’s flush big man rotation: projected #1 pick Karl Anthony-Towns, projected lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein, and projected first-rounder Trey Lyles. As a result, the sophomore only played 16.3 minutes per game, averaging 6.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
“It prepared me a lot,” Johnson said of playing behind them. “Every day, you couldn’t let go of the rope. You just keep on fighting. I think that’s what really helped me for the main part playing against those two, Willie and Karl, each and every day. I think that really got me better and it’s really going to help me prepare for the NBA.”
Johnson’s Wildcats were eliminated in the NCAA Final Four by Gasser’s Badgers. The workout was the first time Johnson had been in contact with anyone from Wisconsin since the loss. Nonetheless, Johnson said the two got along fine. “He’s actually a pretty cool guy. I don’t have any grudges.”
With the draft two weeks away, the Nets are expected to host four prospect workouts next week.