With the 17th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Nets select — a player chosen for the Hawks. General manager Sean Marks had a chance to exercise the Nets’ original first-round pick for the first time in his four drafts, but he traded the No. 17 pick as well as a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2020 as part of a recent deal to move Allen Crabbe’s $18.5 million salary to Atlanta to clear at least $46 million in salary-cap space to use in free agency.
In effect, the Nets actually “drafted” 6-8 Taurean Prince, who came as part of the Crabbe deal and is a three-year veteran who was the No. 12 pick of the 2016 draft. Prince averaged 13.5 points last season, shot 39.0 percent from three-point range and can play either forward position, making him a fit for their needs.
The Nets still have the No. 27 overall pick they received from Denver and the No. 31 pick they got from the Knicks to lead off the second round, but when the Nets’ season ended after a first-round playoff loss to the 76ers, Marks said it was possible he would trade one or even all his picks.
“If the right guys are there that we’re targeting in the draft, we’ll welcome him, we’ll develop him, we’ll love him and care for him like we do everybody else,” Marks said. “If we feel that, strategically, it’s more in line with what we’re trying to do is move one, two or all, we’ll go from there and see where it goes.”
In other words, don’t be surprised if Marks packages his two remaining picks to move up for a player the Nets want or sits tight and uses his picks for one or two of the big men that likely will be available near the end of the first round and start of the second. Adding size might be a priority for the Nets, who struggled at times to handle opponents with a physical inside presence.
But Marks said, “Just adding size doesn’t necessarily get it done. I think you’ve got to factor in the talent, the system fit. It comes to a point where you can’t get it all at once . . . We’ll target the strategic people whether it’s through the draft or free agency.”
Because the Nets are in position to address their most glaring needs in free agency, Marks might get creative in the draft and add to the Nets’ store of talent on the wings and in the backcourt simply by taking the best available talent on the board. But if he packages No. 27 and No. 31 to move up, Marks might target 6-11 center Goga Bitadze, who turns 20 in July, is from the country of Georgia and was MVP in the Adriatic League last season.
Two intriguing big men who might be available lower if the Nets don’t make a trade are 6-10 power forward Luka Samanic, a 19-year-old from Croatia who has played professionally in Slovenia and Spain, and 6-9 combination forward Darius Bazley, a 19-year-old who withdrew from commitments to Ohio State and Syracuse out of high school and spent last season training. Samanic is a capable three-point shooter who previously played on Barcelona’s second-tier team with current Nets forward Rodions Kurucs.
Other big men linked to the Nets in various mock drafts include 6-11 Georgia center Nic Claxton, 6-10 Stanford forward KZ Okpala, 6-10 Maryland center Bruno Fernando and 6-8 Auburn forward Chuma Okeke, who is a three-and-D type. Some of the wings who might interest the Nets include 6-6 USC guard Kevin Porter Jr., who is a top three-point shooter, and 6-4 Arizona State guard Luguentz Dort, who was Pac-12 freshman of the year.