The approaching NBA free-agent signing period is far more important for the Nets than the NBA Draft Thursday night at Barclays Center, but their history under general manager Sean Marks shows he often uses draft-related moves as the launching point for roster renovation.
Marks goes into the draft with the Nets’ own No. 27 first-round pick plus three second-round picks (Nos. 44, 49 and 59). The Rockets had the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets as a result of the James Harden trade, but that would have meant moving back.
Reportedly, Marks might be looking to move up in the draft using veteran sharpshooter Landry Shamet as bait along with the No. 27 spot and some combination of second-round picks. Marks has used draft-related deals to acquire top veteran talent. One rumor had the Nets exploring a trade for Pelicans center Steven Adams, but it appears he will be traded for Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas. But other veteran centers are available.
But since the Nets are far over the salary cap, deep into luxury tax territory and are facing contract extensions for the Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, he might be content to move up for a rookie he covets for the long-term at a cheaper cost.
The Nets have two primary needs — a big man who can play either center or forward and help at point guard to serve as insurance against more injury trouble for Irving and Harden as well as the likely loss of unrestricted free-agent Spencer Dinwiddie.
Although free-agent center Blake Griffin has expressed his desire to return and will collect $29.8 million as part of his buyout from the Pistons, there is uncertainty about whether he again will accept a veterans-minimum deal from the Nets, and free-agent forward Jeff Green also might go elsewhere if he rejects the minimum.
If the Nets can move into the 15-19 range, the most intriguing forward prospect might be Duke’s athletic 6-9 Jalen Johnson, who can score, rebound and he shot 44.4% from three-point range. Kentucky’s 6-10 Isaiah Jackson reportedly worked out well for the Nets and North Carolina’s 6-11 Day’Ron Sharpe also could be available in the 20-27 range, but neither has a three-point shot.
If Marks can’t find the right deal to move up, the Nets likely can sit tight and find a serviceable point-guard option. It’s expected such guards as Florida’s Tre Mann and Virginia Commonwealth’s Nah’Shon Hyland will come off the board in the vicinity of the Nets’ No. 27 pick, and Houston shooting guard Quentin Grimes might be another option.
Notes & quotes: The Nets announced that Mike D’Antoni, who served as a top assistant to first-year head coach Steve Nash last season, is leaving to pursue other head-coaching opportunities. "Having Mike next to me was invaluable as I navigated my first season as head coach," Nash said in a statement. "I will be forever grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together." . . . ESPN reported the Nets tendered a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Bruce Brown to keep his Bird rights. Newsday confirmed that report with a source.
Jeff and desk -- Will re-send Nets main in a few moments.
The Nets have two obvious areas of need entering the NBA Draft Thursday night at Barclays Center – a big man who can play PF/C and point guard depth. Here is a look at potential candidates at the Nets’ No. 27 overall spot in the first round:
Big man – Kentucky’s 6-10 Isaiah Jackson and North Carolina’s 6-11 Day’Ron Sharpe fit the bill as big men who can defend the rim and score a little on the inside. However, neither has a three-point shot. If the Nets can move up, 6-9 Duke forward Jalen Johnson could be a target after averaging 11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 blocks as a freshman while shooting 44.4% from three-point range.
Point guard depth – There are a couple of quality point guards who could be available when the Nets pick, including Florida’s Tre Mann and Virginia Commonwealth’s Bones Hyland, and they also might consider Houston shooting guard Quentin Grimes. The 6-5 Mann averaged 16.0 points and shot 40.2% from three-point range as a sophomore while 6-3 Hyland, who improved his stock at the NBA combine, averaged 19.5 points and shot 44.7% from three-point range. Grimes is a 6-6 junior, who averaged 17.8 points and shot 40.3% from three for a team that reached the NCAA title game.