With the NBA Draft Lottery now only a day away, we thought that this would be a good time to look at some of the top prospects in the draft that the Nets have a chance at getting. Because we are not college basketball experts and are not as familiar with the players as we would want to be, our friend Sam Gardner will talk about some of the best prospects the Nets can get if they are able to land a top-3 pick. Take it away Sam!
With the 6 slot in the lottery, the Nets have a 21.3% chance of receiving a 1st round pick in the upcoming draft. According to sources, the Nets have been linked to four prospects. All four prospects are potential top 5 picks as the Nets pick is only top 3 protected. 3 of the 4 prospects played in the NCAA title game and the fourth was a key cog in an elite eight team. Let’s take look at each of the prospects and their upside and downside for the Nets. I just want to note that the Nets probably will be approaching this offseason with a “win now” outlook because of the move to Brooklyn. As FRWD previously noted many times, the Nets are likely to use their top 3 pick, if they get one, as a trade chip to get Dwight Howard.
1. Anthony Davis: Davis is the consensus #1 pick this year. Davis became the second freshman ever to win national POY, the first being Kevin Durant. He was a major contributor in Kentucky’s run to the NCAA title although not in the conventional way. Davis changed games with his ability to block and alter shots and rebound at a high level. His offensive game is still raw but he had flashes of potentially being a great offensive player with good form on his shot, great ball-handling skills for a big man and some solid post moves. He has a skinny frame and probably always will although he has room to add some lbs to battle against NBA big guys.
He reminds me of a more skilled Marcus Camby and if he continues to develop, he will be an all-NBA center.
The Nets will select him if they get the 1st pick (6.3%) and the question then becomes do they ship him to Orlando for Dwight Howard. It’s a tough decision but I would hold onto Davis who is younger, cheaper and healthier than Howard at this point. The Nets would keep financial flexbility for this offseason and future ones. However with the new arena and Dwight’s established star status, I would be surprised to not see D Howard in a Net uniform if they get the first pick.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: Kidd-Gilchrist is maybe the most physically intriguing prospect in this draft. He is a great rebounder for a sg/sf and he has the tools to be a great defender. Nbadraft.net compares him to Gerald Wallace and I would say that’s about right. I think MKG is more developed at this point than Wallace was, but his offensive game is not as complete or consistent and he is at least a year or two away from becoming an all-star level wing player.
Like Wallace, Kidd-Gilchrist could inject a solid defensive identity for the Nets and could step right into his role if they don’t bring him back (albeit he is not as good as Crash yet). He’s at his best in transition and would make the Nets dangerous if Deron comes back. If the Nets are confident that they will resign Gerald, then this is not the right pick.
3. Bradley Beal: Beal was impressive in his only college season at U of Florida. Although the Kentucky freshmen got all the media attention, Beal was a top 5 recruit nationally for the class of 2011. When I watched Beal this year, I was most impressed by his poise under pressure and ability to make the right play consistently, be it an extra pass or knocking down a big 3. Beal is versatile offensively although he is most lethal from the 3 point arc and plays within the flow of the offense, although he has 1-on-1 ability. He averaged over 6 rebounds per game from the sg/sf position, and at 6′ 3”, showed that he already has NBA-level strength.
Beal seems like a weird fit for the Nets where the SG/SF position seems to be the least of their problems. However, Beal is definitely an upgrade over Morrow, Brooks, Farmar or Deshawn, and would probably be an instant contributor. He is still only 18 years old and can only get better, which could be scary. I would say that Beal fits the mold of a Brandon Roy with his methodical style, and I would not be surprised to see him emerge as the best scorer out of this draft. I would be surprised if the Nets went in this direction, and I think their depth inside is an urgent problem, but Beal’s skill set is too good to call this a “bad” pick. If they can flip Morrow for some depth inside and find other ways to sure up their other deficiencies, this could actually turn out to be a very good pick.
4. Thomas Robinson: After coming off the bench behind the Morris twins for two years, Robinson emerged as a star this year earning 1st team All-America honors and leading a very good but not great Kansas team to the NCAA title game. Robinson is the oldest player from this group and is a rarity in that he is an upperclassman and a lottery prospect. Robinson put up monster numbers with 17.9 pts and 11.8 rbs per game in only 31.8 minutes of action this season. Robinson still has room for development of his offensive game, but he showed that he is a legit NBA caliber forward this year. He already has the 18 foot jumper that seems to be a necessity for most PFs in the NBA today and his post game is very good. He has great size for a PF and will probably make an instant impact wherever he goes.
Although some folks are down on Robinson (Chad Ford of ESPN has him at 4 and Aran Smith of nbadraft.net has him as at 7 on their respective big boards), I believe he is the 2nd best player in this draft and has the potential to be an impact player for a long time. There are very few big men in the game with Robinson’s combination of skill, strength, and athleticism and he should only get better. Robinson was the leader of a highly overachieving Kansas team this year, and he has a very good motor, which when combined with his other tools makes him a rare prospect. He reminds me of a combo of Al Jefferson and Karl Malone, and he has an extremely high ceiling (Dominant All-NBA big man) and a pretty decent floor (a 12 and 8 guy for his career I would say). I think the Nets would be smart to take Robinson if they get the 2 or 3 pick and don’t make a trade because of their need for depth inside.
The Nets have not had legitimate depth at the PF/C (3 if not 4 solid big men in the rotation) since the days of Jason Collins, Kenyon Martin, Aaron Williams and even the great Keith Van Horn (I know we love to make fun of Jason Collins, but he battled with the frontcourts of the Pacers and Pistons when the Nets went to the finals). Even with Carter, Jefferson and Kidd, the Nets were not able to fulfill their expectations because of their lack of depth at the 4/5 positions. We’ve seen the likes of Mehmet Okur, Josh Boone, Sean Williams, Desagna Diop, and Dan Gadzuric grace the Meadowlands and Prudential Center with their greatness in the past several years. The Nets always seemed to have at best 2 big guys (in recent years, Hump and Brook). At this point, if the Nets can find a way to bring back Brook and The Hump, they will still need 1 or preferably 2 adequate big guys that can rotate in and give the Nets an edge in the paint. Shelden Williams is borderline and is not a bad 4th PF/C off the bench, but that is the limit and the Nets must find a way to upgrade their depth down low. A Dwight Howard trade would likely leave them with few big guy assets, and even if they do resign Humphries, they will need another solid big guy down low to be a legitimate contender in the East. It is important to note that when the Magic traded away Marcin Gortat, they haven’t had the same amount of success, and they were frankly unable to field an adequate team once Dwight went out because of their depth (Daniel Orton, Ryan Anderson at center…). I know we all want the superstar to come in to save the day, but the Nets front office has a lot of work to do, even if they get Howard.