In the aftermath of Tuesday’s trade of franchise center Brook Lopez to the Lakers, the Nets sifted through a plethora of big- man prospects remaining on the board when they were on the clock with the No. 22 overall pick. They chose the upside potential of 6-10 Texas freshman Jarrett Allen to develop as their center of the future in the NBA Draft Thursday night.
But in a very real sense, the Nets’ draft really was built around the Lopez trade and the acquisition of shooting guard D’Angelo Russell, who is just 21 and was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In addition to Russell, the Nets took on the onerous contract of center Timofey Mozgov, and they gave their No. 27 pick to the Lakers.
Only after the trade became official last night was Nets general manager Sean Marks allowed to comment on the deal. After the Nets made their second-round pick, taking 6-9 power forward Aleksandar Vezenkov, a 22-year-old who averaged 9.0 points and shot 38.0 percent from three-point range with FC Barcelona in the Spanish League, Marks met with the media.
First, Marks thanked Lopez, saying, “It’s been pretty clear what he meant to this franchise over the course of the last nine years. We’ll sorely miss him, miss his presence around here.
“But the trade is about getting a couple of pieces to add to our young core. We’re talking about D’Angelo Russell and what he’s done in the league the first couple years with being 21 years old. I think he’ll be a nice complementary piece to what we’ve got with our young guys here.”
Russell lost his starting point guard job with the Lakers last season and eventually shifted to shooting guard. Some have expressed concern about Russell’s lack of maturity.
“I’ve known him for quite some time,” Marks said. “I’ve followed him through his college career prior to being drafted. When you’re able to get a talent like that in your gym, we’re excited about that.
“Anytime we get Kenny [Atkinson] and his coaching staff’s hands on somebody, who knows where it goes? Again, I’m not concerned about the maturity and so forth. What I’m concerned about is what he brings and our culture and how we can develop him not only as a basketball player but as a young man.”
Without Lopez, the Nets figure to be a more perimeter-oriented team, and Marks is confident Russell and point guard Jeremy Lin will form a compatible backcourt along with small forward Caris LeVert.
“To have both those guys gives us a lot of versatility,” Marks said of Lin and Russell. “Not only do we have Jeremy and Caris and now D’Angelo, all that can break defenses down and handle the ball and ability to shoot from outside. They’re a threat, so, we’re looking forward to that.”
Marks also expressed confidence that Mozgov is a system fit as a defender and rim protector despite his lack of shooting range. Improving the Nets’ interior defense and shotblocking also was part of their thinking in drafting Allen, who they rated much higher than No. 22 and were surprised to see him drop in their laps. Allen never worked out for the Nets but met with them the day before the draft and at the pre-draft Combine.
“This was extremely fortunate to get Jarrett Allen,” Marks said. “He’s an incredible young man, very versatile, and he has not even remotely scratched the surface of what he can do. If you look at how he has improved through his very short time in Texas, it’s exciting for us. It’s exciting. He’s a tremendous young man, fits exactly what we’re doing.”
Height: 6-10/Weight: 234
Key Stats: Averaged 13.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and shot 56.6 percent from the field, but was 0-for-7 from three-point range.
Comment: Allen has a 7-6 wingspan, finishes well around the rim and provides shot-blocking and rim protection. His shooting range is limited, so it will be interesting to see if Nets coach Kenny Atkinson tries to develop that aspect.