Brooklyn Nets: Tempered expectations best for 2019 NBA Draft

Brooklyn Nets 2019 NBA Draft (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets 2019 NBA Draft (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets are on course for 3 picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, 2 in the 1st round and 1 in the 2nd, but immediate help could be hard to find.

The Brooklyn Nets, for the first time in six years, will have their own first-round selection in the NBA Draft, and are on pace for that pick to be pretty much right in the middle of the round.

Based on current standings, the Nets would have the No. 16 overall pick as the holders of the second-worst record among the 16 teams currently occupying playoff positions.

(One of my pet peeves from the mock draft crowd is an insistence upon projecting draft order based solely on winning percentage when the likelihood is that at least two and probably three of the Eastern Conference playoff teams will be drafting after at least two Western clubs with better records.)

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The 2019 draft class doesn’t appear to be a particularly deep one in terms of star power, but honestly these assessments are often nothing but informed (sometimes very well informed) guesses.

Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks and his scouting team have done a terrific job in their first three drafts of finding quality from unexpected slot.

Marks traded to have the Indiana Pacers select Caris LeVert for them at No. 20 overall in 2016, and nabbed Jarrett Allen at No. 22 overall in 2017 with a pick procured from the Washington Wizards.

In 2018, he turned a second-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers that the Nets got in the DeMarre Carroll deal with the Toronto Raptors into Rodions Kurucs at No. 40 overall.

That’s not including the upside of No. 29 overall pick Dzanan Musa with Toronto’s selection acquired in the same Carroll trade.

I am reminded of an old adage about making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, because that sort of value from those draft slots isn’t exactly the norm for a league with talent evaluators that have whiffed more often than anyone wants to admit with top-tier picks.

Draft Express’s Top 100 prospects at ESPN have players in the 14-18 range such as DeAndre Hunter of Virginia, Rui Hachimura of Gonzaga, Jontay Porter of Missouri, Nickell Alexander-Walker of Virginia Tech and P.J. Washington of Kentucky.

But this draft could be a complete crap shoot after Duke prospects Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett at the top.

(Confession time: It’s one of the things I wish I was better at, but my disdain for college basketball’s hypocrisy leads me to not watch it until I look at clips of prospects after the season is over, so I’m not going to pretend to know things at this point that I really don’t.)

The Nets also currently hold the first-round pick of the Denver Nuggets, which is unlikely to fall into the top 12 of the draft (the protection level of the pick) with the Nuggets tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA at 29-14.

That pick would land right now at either No. 26 or No. 27, with the Nuggets and Indiana Pacers owning identical records.

Players in the 24-30 range on Draft Express’ prospects list include Talen Horton-Tucker of Iowa State, Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois, Coby White of North Carolina, Luka Samanic from Croatia, Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield of Tennessee and Eric Pascall of Villanova.

The Nets’ second-round pick will go to the Orlando Magic after Brooklyn traded the pick to the Charlotte Hornets in the Dwight HowardTimofey Mozgov salary dumpalooza.

The Nets do, however, hold the second-round pick of the New York Knicks, acquired in the December 2017 trade of Trevor Booker to the Philadelphia 76ers. That pick projects at this point at No. 33 overall.

The Pacers’ second-round pick will likely not convey to Brooklyn this year — it is protected if it falls between 46th and 60th overall and Indiana’s pick would either be No. 56 or No. 57.

That pick, with the same protections, would roll over to 2020 and is similarly protected through 2022. If it hasn’t already conveyed, Indiana’s pick will finally come to Brooklyn in 2023, when the protections expire.

It’s still early — while draftniks may have some ideas as to which players will opt to leave college early, the complete picture won’t be known until spring. Similarly, the international pool has yet to take shape.

There were some expectations — even hopes — among Brooklyn fans that this season would be a tankfest in order to get the maximum positional value out of the Nets’ first-round pick.

But Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson have said since the offseason their goal was to move their process forward to the level of competing for a playoff berth.

They’ve accomplished that to this point despite injuries that have sidelined LeVert and Allen Crabbe for large chunks of the season and have also limited Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll for significant periods.

After seeing what magic Marks was able to accomplish with limited resources over the last three drafts, you have to like Brooklyn’s chances of finding some sort of gem in the middle of the first round.

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With that and a lot of salary cap space, the next next step of the rebuild could come sooner rather than later.