With the NBA Draft completed and a multitude of trades already transpiring, the Nets have a group of young players who will have the chance to compete for roster spots or prove to the Brooklyn coaching staff that they deserve a role in the rotation next season. Those players like many around the league will get the chance to do so at the NBA Summer League, which begins a few days in Orlando before also kicking off in Utah and Las Vegas. With high draft picks, Jahlil Okafor, Karl Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell each partaking in the festivities there will certainly be loads of evaluators and team personnel on hand to see how they handle the transition to the pro level. That means that players not guaranteed a roster spot next season will have those same eyes wide open waiting to be impressed.
Brooklyn is one of six teams who will have teams competing in two Summer Leagues (Orlando and Vegas), which will give their draftees and free agent signees a few extra games to display their skill set. Despite not having any 2015 lottery picks on their roster, the Nets do have a Summer League roster that collectively has the chance to be among the best to step onto the court.
Brooklyn currently has three players on their 19-man roster with NBA experience all of whom were on the roster last season. Six-year veteran Earl Clark along with 2nd year players Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson will likely have a leg up on starting spots this summer and the latter two will have to show some improvement from their rookie season. After earning some time as a starter last season, coaches will want to see Brown improve his mid-range game, while playing his usual tenacious defense. Jefferson, on the other hand, will have to show that he’s more than a tweener and can be a force as a rebounder, especially after the trade of Mason Plumlee to Portland.
Joining Brown and Jefferson will be 2015 Draft picks Rondae-Hollis Jefferson and Juan Pablo Vaulet, both whom were acquired in draft night trades. Hollis-Jefferson will be intensely analyzed considering Brooklyn’s decision to deal Plumlee along with the 41st pick for the rights to the explosive small forward. A defensively-elite player in college, Hollis-Jefferson will have the opportunity to use summer league to work on his offensive game, which may need a complete reconstruction in regards to mechanics.
Although he’ll likely play in Argentina next season, Vaulet will get the opportunity to show he belongs in the NBA. He has the physical package you’d like to see and an excellent first step, but his jump-shooting is well-below average largely due to a low release point. Yet even with that, he provides Brooklyn’s summer team a high-energy swingman.
Aside from the Nets draft picks, three players who signed on as undrafted free agents may have more than one scout’s eyes. Those players are former Kansas forward Cliff Alexander, former Connecticut guard Ryan Boatright, and former Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser. Alexander was once the most touted of the three, earning top three draft projections before he began his stint in Lawrence. With injury concerns, eligibility issues at Kansas, and inconsistent play when he was on the court, his draft stock tumbled and he’ll have to show some promise in order to latch on with a team even as a developmental player. With a reputation for being an overpowering post player and solid rebounder before his freshman season, he’ll have some ground to gain that reputation back.
Boatright unlike Alexander showed a wealth of leadership and improvement this past season at Connecticut. He’s shown an aggression on defense to pressure the ball and is lightning quick from end to end. However, he possesses no standout trait that would make him likely of earning a roster spot. His lack of strength and size won’t help his case and he’ll have to show mid-range consistency and the ability to penetrate at a high rate in order to earn a roster spot.
BUFFALO, NY – MARCH 22: Ryan Boatright #11 of the Connecticut Huskies calls a play against the Villanova Wildcats during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the First Niagara Center on March 22, 2014 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Among the three, Gasser likely has the least chance of earning a roster spot as at 6’3 he’s definitely undersized at the two-guard spot and will have to compete with Markel Brown for minutes. Unlike either Boatright or Alexander, Gasser does have a standout trait in his shooting, which could force teams to give him an extended look. He also showed the leadership qualities and hustle you’d like to see from players at the end of the bench. With his inability to run the point it will be hard for him to earn a spot, but he’ll have the opportunity.
With an assortment of players like Gasser competing for roster spots, including Coach Lionel Hollins’ son Austin Hollins, Brooklyn’s roster at the very least should at the very least be ready for action every game they compete in. Whether that translates to a roster spot for some of those players is another topic, but with every team in the NBA sending scouts to look for diamonds in the rough, Summer League is the place to be.