For Nets general manager Sean Marks, the NBA Draft was the first step in the bigger picture of clearing the cap room necessary to be a major player in the free agent market that opens on June 30. But as the owners of the No. 31 pick leading off the second round, the Nets were in prime position to land Georgia center Nic Claxton, the player they likely would have taken with the No. 27 pick before trading it to the Clippers, and they picked up the No. 56 from the Clippers in that deal to take UCLA point guard Jaylen Hands.
Drafting a center in the second round also addressed whatever depth concerns the Nets might have in the event backup center Ed Davis leaves in free agency. Marks insisted Claxton was the “best available” talent at No. 31, but he added, “It obviously doesn’t hurt the fact that he plays the position he does. [He’s] a guy that we think fits the modern NBA. We like the style of ball that he plays. He’s probably just scratching the surface, so it will be intriguing for us.
“There’s a tremendous amount of upside with him, the way he moves, the way I think he will eventually be able to stretch the floor, the way he can handle the ball already.”
Hands also might fortify the Nets’ depth at point guard if third-stringer Shabazz Napier is waived as expected to give the Nets cap room to sign two maximum-salary free agents. Hands led the Pac-12 last season with an average of 6.1 assists per game, and he had a high assists-to-turnovers ratio.
“Jaylen is an explosive young guard,” Marks said. “I’m very intrigued by him. It will be interesting to see him and get to know him and see where he goes from there.”
Claxton and Hands will be on the Nets’ Las Vegas Summer League roster along with starting center Jarrett Allen and second-year players Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa and Theo Pinson. Isaia Cordinier, a second-round pick in 2016 who has remained in France, also will play in Las Vegas. In addition, the Nets so far have signed Buffalo point guard C.J. Massinburg, who was MVP of the Mid-American Conference, Virginia Tech guard Ahmed Hill, Georgetown forward Kaleb Johnson and G-League guard Jaylen Morris.
The Nets open play on July 5 against Dallas and follow with games on July 7 against Croatia, on July 8 against Washington and on July 10 against Orlando before single-elimination tournament play begins.