“With the 22nd pick, the Brooklyn Nets select…”

Gorgui Dieng
Gorgui Dieng (AP)

It’s that time of year again: draft time. A time when nearly all Nets fans spend the early part of their summers reading, speculating, hypothesizing, or dreaming about for the past six years. What’s that? You haven’t followed the draft because you know the Nets hold the 22nd pick due to finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference this season and don’t care to pay much attention until the very last minute?

Great! Because we’ve got you covered.

Though the draft is still about a month away (June 27th at the Barclays Center, tickets on sale here), the mock drafts are out in full force. ESPN, SI, and of course Draft Express have all updated their latest mock drafts and two of the three drafts have the Nets taking the same player. So let’s start with that player.

Jeff Withey
Jeff Withey (AP)

Jeff Withey: 23 years old, 7’0″ tall, 7’3″ wingspan, 222 lbs, from Kansas University.

Final per-game stats from his senior season in 12′-13′:

13.7 PPG, 58.2% FG, 71.4% FT, 8.5 REB, 0.8 STLS, 0.9 AST, 3.9 BLKS, 2.0 TO’s, 30.9 MPG

Both Draft Express and ESPN have the Nets taking Withey with the 22nd pick. Perhaps they know something? Tough to tell. What we do know is that Withey was a top rim protector in college this past season. He helped Kansas lead the nation in opposing 2PT% and averaged an astounding 4.9 blocks per 40 minutes. From ESPN:

The Nets got a great season out of Brook Lopez, but they don’t really have a credible backup for him. Withey is unlikely to be a star, but he is one of the two or three best shot blockers in the draft and should be able to come in and play great defense for 10-15 minutes a game in Brooklyn.

From Draft Express:

Jeff Withey has developed remarkably the past two seasons, from being a total non-factor his first three years in college to arguably the best overall defender in the NCAA.

Standing close to 7-feet, with an excellent 7-3 wingspan and very good athletic ability, Withey has excellent physical tools for his position, which happens to be the most difficult to fill in the NBA. A former volleyball player, he’s a mobile big man who is quick off his feet and can elevate impressively around the rim, and shows tremendous coordination on the defensive end.

Withey’s biggest shortcoming from a physical standpoint lies in his average frame, as he still needs to continue to add strength, especially to his lower body. It’s unclear how much room he has left for physical development considering his age (23) and the fact that he comes from a college program known for doing good work in the strength and conditioning department.

Also from Draft Express: Withey led the nation in finishing around the basket in non-post-up situations: he shot 79.2% in those situations. Read more from Draft Express here.

Another fun tidbit about Withey; during his sophomore year of high school in 2006, he led his team to the Division IV title. On the way to the championship, his team defeated a San Joaquin Memorial team in the Southern California Regional Championship game in double overtime. On that San Joaquin Memorial team were three seniors — all current NBA players — Quincy Pondexter, Robin Lopez, and of course, Brook Lopez.

The next mock draft we will examine comes from Sports Illustrated. They have the Nets taking 6’6″ SG from the University of California, Allen Crabbe.

Allen Crabbe
Allen Crabbe (AP)

Allen Crabbe:

Final per-game stats from his junior season in 12′-13′:

18.4 PPG, 45.9% FG, 81.3% FT, 34.8% 3PT, 6.1 REB, 1.1 STLS, 2.6 AST, 0.7 BLKS, 2.5 TO’s, 36.2 MPG

From SI:

The Nets would love a big man like Gorgui Dieng to slip this far. Crabbe’s three-point percentage last season was his lowest in three years at Cal, but he shot well at the combine, has good size for his position and has shown an ability to use screens well. With MarShon Brooks on the trading block, Brooklyn will be on the look-out for a replacement.

So basically, Chris Mannix of SI goes through the usual “Brooklyn would love this guy, but this guy is good too *stats here*” routine. Then he casually throws in the fact that MarShon Brooks is on the trading block. We’ll certainly get to this in a separate post, but… Oh.

Now for Crabbe — Draft Express says this about the reigning PAC12 player of the year:

With Cal losing in the NCAA tournament Round of 32 to Syracuse, junior Allen Crabbe announced shortly after that he would forgo his senior season and declare for the NBA draft.

Standing 6’6″ with long, wiry arms, Crabbe has good size to play the shooting guard position in the NBA, although he could stand to add a little more strength. While not an explosive athlete, Crabbe is very quick, both in the open court and when running off screens in the half court. He gets a good amount of his offense in transition, where both his ability to streak out and finish as well as his ability trailing the break provide him with scoring opportunities.

Another note from Draft Express: Crabbe finished 6th in the nation this past season in PPP while coming off of screens (1.037 PPP on 4.1 attempts per game). You can read more on Crabbe from Draft Express here.

So who should the Nets take? It a tough call, but these mock drafts have seemingly pinpointed the Nets’ greatest needs: a backup center to allow Andray Blatche more time at power forward (assuming he re-signs), and also a scorer off the bench. With patience and confidence dwindling on MarShon Brooks to be that sixth-man player, the Nets might need to look at someone who can provide instant offense coming off of the bench.

When looking at each playoff team this season, I often saw a consistent trend: most teams had that “third guard” off the bench. Whether it be J.R. Smith, Manu Ginobili, Jarrett Jack, Kevin Martin, Jamal Crawford, Wilson Chandler, Nate Robinson, Norris Cole — to name a few — The Nets lacked that backcourt scoring off the bench this season. Their lone backcourt scorer off the bench was C.J. Watson — a good, not great threat off the bench. He also has a player option for next season, meaning he may not be back.

So perhaps they need to look at a player such as Crabbe who can score, shoot, and provide instant offense. One player that I’ve always liked at the guard position is Tim Hardaway Jr. from Michigan.

Many drafts have Hardaway as a fringe first rounder, but when I watch him play, I see a player who competes, who can shoot, and who has size. A similar player to Crabbe, Hardaway is a 6’6″ shooting guard whose father of course, played 13 seasons in the NBA. You can read about Hardaway on Draft Express here.

Gorgui Dieng
Gorgui Dieng (AP)
My primary target at pick 22 is 6’11” center from Louisville, Gorgui Dieng. It would be a bit surprising if Dieng falls to number 22, but most drafts have him slotted right around that area.

SI has him going 16th overall to Boston, while both Draft Express and ESPN have him going 20th overall to Chicago.

If Dieng falls to 22, he would be a must-pick for the Nets.

Dieng’s motor is off the charts, and his shotblocking and defense have always been his strong-suit. His offensive game has improve dramatically over the past couple seasons and he has developed a consistent 15-foot jump shot.

Read more from Draft Express on Dieng here.