When Nets general manager Sean Marks finally traded franchise center Brooks Lopez on Tuesday, it underscored his determination to follow the blueprint for rebuilding he outlined to owner Mikhail Prokhorov before he was hired more than a year ago. In its simplest terms, the deal allowed the Nets to replace the No. 1 overall pick that was traded away to Boston four years ago by acquiring guard DeAngelo Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in 2015, from the Lakers as part of the Lopez deal.
Essentially, Russell is the Nets’ top pick of the 2017 NBA Draft that takes place tonight at Barclays Center. The Nets gladly surrendered the No. 27 pick they received from Boston as part of the ill-fated 2013 trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and they took on the bloated contract of center Timofey Mozgov. The Lopez trade is expected to become official tonight during the draft.
That still leaves the Nets with the No. 22 overall pick they acquired from Washington at the trade deadline in February for Bojan Bogdanovic. The Nets’ most obvious need in terms of the Marks blueprint for rebuilding is for an athletic big man with three-point range. Fortunately, the segment of the first round where the Nets are picking should offer a smorgasbord of possibilities.
Marks declined all predraft interview requests, but just after the season ended, he said there was a need to upgrade the Nets’ three-point shooting. “Obviously, we value the three-point shot,” Marks said, adding that he and coach Kenny Atkinson were in agreement. “It will be taking the right shot, but it will be having the right personnel to take those shots. We will certainly look to address that.”
The Nets don’t give out information about predraft workouts, but it’s fair to assume they have seen all the prospects likely to be available when they pick. When the lottery portion of the first round ends after the 14th pick, it’s expected there will be a run on big men, and the Nets could trade up if there is a particular player they want.
Gonzaga freshman Zach Collins, a 7-foot center/forward who shot 47.6 percent from three-point range, might fit the Nets’ mold but is expected to go before their No. 22 spot and could sneak into the lottery. After him, there is no strong consensus on where the big men rank.
The top three-point shooting big men include 6-11 Creighton center Justin Patton, who hit 53.3 percent on limited attempts (8 of 15) and blocked 1.4 shots per game; 6-10 UCLA forward T.J. Leaf, who shot 46.6 percent; 6-10 Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon, a 40.0 percent three-point shooter; 6-10 Caleb Swanigan of Purdue (37.6), and 6-11 D.J. Wilson of Michigan (36.3).
The Nets also are believed to have thoroughly scouted two European centers, Anzejs Pasecniks, a 7-1 Latvian who played for Gran Canaria of the Spanish League, and 7-foot Isaiah Hartenstein, a German who played in Lithuania. Pasecniks hit 37.9 percent on limited three-point attempts (11-for-29), and Hartenstein hit 29.6 percent (8 of 27) but has shown potential to improve.
Five athletic big men who would need to develop their shooting range but are considered to have plenty of upside include 6-10 Ike Anigbogu of UCLA, 6-11 Harry Giles of Duke, 6-11 Jarrett Allen of Texas, 6-10 Bam Adebayo of Kentucky and 6-11 Ivan Rabb of Cal.
The Nets hold the No. 57 pick in the second round, but they might buy an earlier second-round pick. Another athletic big man projected as a late second-rounder is 6-11 Thomas Bryant of Indiana (37.3), or they could add depth at other positions with 6-5 Villanova shooting guard Josh Hart or even 6-foot point guard Frank Mason, who was the national player of the year for Kansas.
Here is a rundown of the top three-point shooting big men who could be available to the Nets with the No. 22 pick of the NBA Draft:
Justin Patton, 6-11, C, Creighton – Led the Big East and ranked second nationally with an NCAA freshman record field goal percentage of 67.6. Averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. Size, length and mobility make an impact on defense and in transition (72 dunks in 35 games), poor foul shooter (51.7).
T.J. Leaf, 6-10, PF, UCLA – Israeli native enjoyed stellar freshman season, averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 61.7 percent overall and 46.6 from three (27-of-58). Former McDonald’s All-American runs the floor, has passing skill, possesses great shooting touch and leaping ability.
Anzejs Pasecniks, 7-1, C, Gran Canaria (Spain) – Once considered comparable to countryman Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks, Latvian spent past two seasons in Spanish League, averaging 8.0 points and 3.2 rebounds and shooting 64.9 percent in barely 16 minutes per game. Agile, plays above rim.