If the Nets are able to swing a deal for a late first or early second round pick, the depth in this draft is very conducive to their needs. With 4 roster spots up for grabs even if Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett return, the Nets need some young depth to surround their aging veterans. The Nets seem to be doing everything in their power to trade Marcus Thornton, while Alan Anderson opted out of his deal for next year. Those possible losses along with the seemingly unlikely return of Shaun Livingston, Brooklyn will need to some help in their backcourt this upcoming season. Behind Deron Williams, the point guard position leaves a lot to be desired, with only an unproven Marquis Teague and recent D-League signee Jorge Gutierrez. With that in mind, these are the options Nets management could find itself with come NBA draft time.
1) Jordan Clarkson: At Missouri, Clarkson displayed good vision at the point guard position and consistently dominated smaller players in the post, something Jason Kidd frequently did during his career. His size at 6’4 wouldn’t be that of the 6’7 Livingston, but it allows him to shoot over most point guards and gives him solid defensive capabilities for the coaching staff to work with. Most noticeable is Clarkson’s body control, which helps him create space and finish around the basket. The Nets loved the versatility which Livingston provided and Clarkson would immediately be able to contribute at point guard and sometimes play alongside Deron Williams.
The former Mizzou Tiger still has some work to do in regards to his shooting form as he had some inconsistent results this past season. His games against Kentucky and NC State in comparison with his 2 performances against Florida showed just that. Yet as a backup to Williams he won’t be asked to do much shooting and could instead focus on doing what he does best, attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line.
2) Tyler Ennis: The Nets and Knicks would battle it out for a draft pick for the opportunity to select the young point guard out of Syracuse if the Jose Calderon-Tyson Chandler trade falls through. Ennis was the extension of Jim Boeheim on the court with a natural ability to find his teammates, particularly in transition. Excellent at changing speeds when pushing the ball, he can either finish himself or do a drop off pass to a trailing teammate. Despite being 19, his turnover rate was among the lowest in college basketball last season, which is impressive for a player playing so many minutes down the stretch of the season due to team injuries.
However, those minutes may have also taken a toll on him as a scorer as his shooting and perimeter defense became inconsistent in the second half of the season with games against Duke and Davidson that left something to be desired. If he can focus on his perimeter defense and shows Brooklyn that he could handle himself in one-on-one defensive situations, he could find a lot of minutes off the bench next season. After attending the Deron Williams Skills Academy only 2 years ago, he could find himself backing up the veteran point guard this fall.
3) Spencer Dinwiddie: Whether you consider Dinwiddie a point guard or shooting guard, he’s definitely one thing, a basketball player. Despite a knee injury that kept him out about half the season, the former Colorado guard has pushed himself back into shape for a shot at being selected in the first round this upcoming draft. Jason Kidd has proclaimed that he wants to push the ball more and Dinwiddie was one of the best in college basketball at doing so before his injury. His size at point guard gives him an advantage over opposing players and the versatility to play shooting guard with an aptitude for knowing when to make the right pass, will make him extremely appealing to a Brooklyn team in dire need of those qualities. The most impressive game from Dinwiddie was against Marcus Smart this past season as he matched the top ranked point guard step for step, while playing solid defense.
On defense, the former Buffalo may have some trouble guarding quicker guards in the NBA, particularly on the perimeter, which was noticeable during a game against Nick Johnson during his sophomore year. The good news for Brooklyn is he was able to equalize that advantage using his size and shooting. Along with his defense, he’s going to have to prove that he can create his own shot. He took a lot of contested shots at Colorado, but showed improvement during the 16 games before his ACL tear. Most importantly, however, is that he has a drive to get better, something Jason Kidd will surely enjoy hearing. If the Nets can utilize his strengths, while progressively improving his weaknesses in practice & the offseason (similar to what the coaching staff is doing with Mason Plumlee), then he could be an immediate contributor off the bench next season. Plus, Nets fans would likely have a field day with signs saying “Remove De Blasio. Vote Dinwiddie for Mayor”.
4) James Young: The youngest of all 5 of the Brooklyn’s potential late round picks, Young would give the Nets the outside shooting that only Mirza Teletovic and Joe Johnson were able to consistently provide last season. The former Kentucky Wildcat has a lot of raw potential that has yet to be tapped, which could make him a dynamic scorer 3 years down the road. His games against Florida and Missouri were impressive for a freshman as he was able to carve up both teams from the perimeter. At this point in his development he has an NBA-ready body and with additional time in the weight room could probably switch over to small forward when the Nets go with their small-ball lineup. However, at shooting guard he will be able to knock down shots from Day 1 and could eventually become the Nets most dangerous off-screen option behind Teletovic.
Being only 18, Young will need to improve as a playmaker with the ball in his hands and attack the basket more, especially when his 3 point shot isn’t falling; something which would have been helpful when the Wildcats played Alabama and Auburn. The key to making an impact his first year, however, may be his rebounding, which was exceptional for a shooting guard in his only season in Lexington. Even when his shot wasn’t dropping against Louisville early in the season he was able to grab 10 rebounds and make an impact in his teams win. If the Nets want a young shooter to learn from Joe Johnson, they could be hard pressed to find someone better than Young.
5) Vasilije Micic: Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said he wanted to see his team have more of international flavor to it when he first purchased controlling stake of the franchise and Micic’s Serbian roots would do just that. A 6’6 point guard, Micic would give the Nets both youth and experience at the backup point guard spot. Playing for Mega Vizura in Belgrade, Micic was one of the best players in Europe this past season. Although he’s not an elite athlete, the 20–year old Serbian is proficient in pick and rolls and has great court awareness for his age. Despite average 3+ turnovers, he plays under control and knows how to distribute the ball when teammates are in shooting positions. Some of those turnovers were due to his increasing creativity to try and create offense when his team’s offense is stagnant. His shooting has improved over the past two years and he has good form and a high release. In the Serbian Cup final he demonstrated his playmaking potential with crisp bounce passes and an understanding of the game situations. Some work with a shooting coach would do him well as he needs to improve his mid-range game for defenders to not back off of him.
Defensively, he needs improvement in one-on-one situations and the Nets may need to employ a zone defense when he’s in. His lack of lateral quickness on the perimeter will never change, but the good news for Brooklyn is he competes hard and doesn’t take plays off. That mindset along with his 6’6 frame will at least allow him to potentially become an adequate defender. The fit for Brooklyn and Micic is clear. Micic reads situations extremely well and has a natural feel for the game that few guards in Europe have, particularly in the half-court where Brooklyn spends most of their time. He may never become a dynamic impact starter, but he’ll manage the game better than most guards his age. The NBA has become a league where if you do something well, you’ll get time on the court. Micic’s vision and understanding of the game will endear him to Nets management and give him a chance to be selected in the draft.
No matter who Brooklyn drafts, they’ll be looking for someone who could provide them with production as they ease Deron Williams and Brook Lopez back into the lineup. With no backup locked in for next season at either point guard or shooting guard, one of the above 5 players could find themselves getting 20+ minutes as a rookie. For a playoff team in dire need of youth and fresh legs, a guard who can give them a lift off the bench could be just the type of injection the offense needs.