Nets forward Noah Clowney reaches for the ball along the...

Nets forward Noah Clowney reaches for the ball along the baseline to maintain possession in the second half of an NBA game against the Pacers at Barclays Center on April 3, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Summer school’s in session for the NBA’s young players and hopefuls. The Nets headed to Las Vegas Wednesday for the NBA2K24 Summer League, which opens play Friday.

Last year’s rookie trio of Noah Clowney, Dariq Whitehead and Jalen Wilson headline this year’s squad. After reaching the semifinals last year, Wilson has bigger goals in mind.

“I definitely want to win. we were so close to winning last time, that's definitely the main priority.” Wilson said this week.

Nets assistant coach Steve Hetzel will coach the team while head coach Jordi Fernandez balances his duties coaching the Canadian men’s national team. The Nets’ first game is Friday against the Pacers at 8 p.m. on NBATV.

Here’s three things fans should watch for, with one for each second-year player.

Dariq Whitehead’s return

Nets fans have seen very little of Whitehead due to injuries. One of the Nets' two first-round picks last year, he missed Summer League after foot surgery before the draft. He only played two games - and four in the G-League - before left shin surgery in January.

So how will the 19-year-old look in his first extended run in over a year? Fans should temper expectations but they should look for reminders that Whitehead was praised for his shooting coming out of Duke.

He shot 42.3% on three-pointers in his lone season at Duke, including 45.3% on catch-and-shoot threes, and the Nets need that type of shooting to space the floor. At 6-6, he’s got good size and strength. All that matters, though, is first getting comfortable on the court again and showing that his injuries are behind him.

“You always want to come out and show coach you're ready to play,” Whitehead said. “Summer League is going to have ups and downs as well. It's not going to be perfect, but showing that you're prepared, locked in and ready for the season.”

Noah Clowney looking more comfortable

Clowney shined in the final 13 games of last season. He had a 22-point, 10-rebound game against the Pacers and later had seven blocks against the Raptors.

It made people rightly forget that Clowney struggled last summer as one of the youngest participants in Summer League. That shouldn’t happen this time around so expect Clowney to look more confident knowing his role.

He should look better at center as a rim protector. Keep an eye on his shooting, too. Clowney wants to shoot but he needs to be more consistent knocking shots down besides just taking them.

If he can do that and look more fluid in the post, that gives the Nets a floor-spacing dimension they don’t have with Nic Claxton or Day’Ron Sharpe.

Jalen Wilson’s leadership

Wilson made the All-Summer League second-team last year. At the time, he looked the most NBA-ready of the Nets’ three rookies and it paid off as the first of the trio to start games and earn rotation minutes.

For Wilson, Summer League should be about showing leadership and proving he’s too good for the competition. He should continue to be assertive not just on the court but as a rebounder and taking charge of situations.

Last summer also showed Wilson’s improved jump shot. Fans should keep an eye on that this summer since that’ll help Wilson stay on the floor next season besides his IQ and rebounding.

Wilson could be the classic second-year guy who looks too good for Summer League. That’ll be a plus for him and Nets fans who hope that he can compete for a bigger role next season.

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