LAS VEGAS — Ordinarily, NBA Summer League play serves as a showcase for first-round draft picks, especially those taken in the lottery, and a maiden cruise for other rookies and free agents. But there is much at stake this summer for four Nets veterans, including starters Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs.
Allen has been the Nets’ starting center since the middle of his rookie season and is on an upward trajectory heading into his third season. But when the Nets reached agreements with high-end free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Sunday, they brought along their friend and 2016 U.S. Olympic teammate DeAndre Jordan, whose 6-11, 265-pound bulk is a stark contrast to the style of the lithe 6-11, 246-pound Allen, who struggled at times against physically dominating centers such as the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and the Pistons’ Andre Drummond.
Although Jordan, who turns 31 in July, is on the backside of his career, he is a three-time All-NBA center and two-time member of the NBA all-defensive team. Given his resume and 11 seasons of NBA experience, he is bound to challenge Allen for playing time and might even split the starting role depending on the nature of the matchups from game to game.
As for Kurucs, who was a shocking second-round surprise as a rookie, he averaged 8.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in just 20.5 minutes per game, but more importantly, the Nets went 28-18 with his energy in the starting lineup. Durant was a small forward with the Warriors but likely will be the starting power forward for the Nets, though that won’t happen until the 2020-21 season after a year off to recover from a ruptured Achilles tendon.
So, Kurucs has a chance to regain his starting job at power forward, but he will have strong competition from Taurean Prince, a three-year veteran acquired from the Hawks, and from Wilson Chandler, an 11-year veteran who signed with the Nets as a free agent on Tuesday.
Beyond Allen and Kurucs, the Nets’ summer league team includes lightly used rookie Dzanan Musa, their 2018 first-round pick who played only 39 minutes with the Nets but averaged 19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the G League. Rookie Theo Pinson averaged 20.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists in the G League and also had a few big games in 19 appearances with the Nets.
Both Musa and Pinson figure to compete for second-team minutes at shooting guard or small forward with veteran free agent Garrett Temple and any other veteran free agent the Nets might yet acquire.
Beyond those four young Nets vets, the summer league will baptize second-round picks Nic Claxton and Jaylen Hands. Claxton was the first pick of the second round and can play either power forward or center, but Hands — the No. 56 pick — is a point guard who must fight for recognition. Guard Isaia Cordinier, who was acquired from the Hawks a year ago but spent last season in France, will make his Nets debut, and the list of undrafted free agents on the roster also includes guard C.J. Massinburg of Buffalo, who was player of the year in the Mid-American Conference.
The Nets’ four-game schedule opens Friday against the Mavericks before games against Croatia, the Wizards and the Magic. The summer league single-elimination tournament then begins on July 12.