When the Nets’ NBA-worst 20-62 season ended, general manager Sean Marks was asked about their most pressing needs in the draft and free agency and wisely said they can’t rule anything out.
Since then, Marks, coach Kenny Atkinson and many staff members have traveled the world scouting prospects for Thursday’s NBA Draft and the free-agent market that follows, but per club policy, neither Marks nor anyone in the organization have discussed who has worked out for them.
So, it’s a guessing game what the Nets will do with two first-round picks at No. 22 and No. 27 and their late second-rounder at No. 57. Marks showed he could be bold in his first draft a year ago when he traded veteran Thaddeus Young to Indiana to acquire the No. 20 pick to take Michigan’s Caris LeVert, who came back from foot surgery to start at small forward.
Several draft-related services are saying Marks could gamble again on either Duke’s Harry Giles, who has undergone three knee surgeries, or Indiana’s OG Anunoby, who underwent knee surgery in January. But while either could fit needs the Nets have, they figure to be drafting in an area of the first round where they will have a wide selection of big forwards.
“I like having two picks,” Marks said after the season ended. “I think it just gives us another swing at it. I can’t tell you if we’ll draft two guys in the first round. I can’t tell you if it will be one, I can’t tell you if one’s going to be a stash [in Europe]. Who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see. We’ll stay creative and stay as strategic as we can.”
Two needs Marks has identified are improving the Nets’ three-point shooting, possibly with a good-sized small forward who also has defensive ability, and adding more size at either center or power forward. But any big man must have three-point range. So, that is a good place to start when evaluating their draft needs. But even if they package two first-rounders to move up, it’s unlikely they get a lottery pick in the top 14.
Last season also revealed the Nets’ lack of depth at point guard when starter Jeremy Lin was injured. But former D-Leaguer Spencer Dinwiddie developed into a solid backup, and the Nets are in close pursuit of CSKA Moscow free agent Milos Teodosic, regarded by many as the best non-NBA player in the world. If they are confident of landing Teodosic, that would relieve the pressure on the point guard position. Reportedly, they are in competition with the Heat, Kings and Nuggets for Teodosic.
Many mock drafts have assigned Oklahoma State point guard Juwan Evans to the Nets with one of their two first-round picks. But here’s another scenario that easily might develop. When the lottery pick segment ends, there likely will be a run on big men, but it will be a matter of taste with all the top-end talent off the board.
The Nets could have their choice of the second tier of players at small forward and shooting guard and could grab a young player to develop on the perimeter along with LeVert. Think Terrance Ferguson, the Dallas native, who went to play for Adelaide in Australia after failing to qualify academically as a top U.S. high school recruit a year ago, or North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon or Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey, depending on who is available.
If that happens and highly regarded European big men Anzejs Pasecniks or Isaiah Hartenstein are still available, one of them easily could be the second selection or possibly more seasoned Purdue power forward Caleb Swanigan. But for now, Marks is holding his cards close.