Brooklyn Nets: What latest roster shuffle means for Summer League star

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27: David Duke Jr. #30 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27: David Duke Jr. #30 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

With Kyrie Irving likely sitting the entire 2021-22 season out due to his vaccination stance, everyone on the Brooklyn Nets will need to step up and ensure that this team stays in the championship picture. Superstars like Kevin Durant and players at the end of the roster like David Duke Jr. will all play a part.

The Nets have 14 of their contracts fully guaranteed, with DeAndre’ Bembry likely to remain on the team with a partially guaranteed deal. Two-way deals have become both increasingly commonplace and even more important in the modern NBA, and the Nets need to make sure both of those spots get filled.

While rookie sensation Cam Thomas and newcomer Day’Ron Sharpe have inked permanent contracts, second-round picks Marcus Zegarowski and RaiQuan Gray have yet to sign any sort of long-term deal. Brooklyn appears to be prioritizing Duke, who starred in Summer League play, and former Pepperdine star Kessler Edwards.

Edwards was signed to one of the two-way spots, as the Nets want to make sure that his defense can eventually match up to his finishing at the rim and shooting. Duke appears to be next into the Brooklyn development pipeline based on the latest moves that Sean Marks has made.

The Nets acquired the G League rights to Devontae Cacok, who spent the last two years with the Los Angeles Lakers. This move hints that Duke, fresh off a very productive career at Providence, is getting the second two-way deal, putting him squarely in the crosshairs of Brooklyn’s development team.

David Duke Jr. might stick around for the Brooklyn Nets.

Duke might not have had the most efficient shooting performance in Summer League play, but considering that he was a very effortless scorer when he was a member of the Friars, the Nets should expect that the shot will eventually come around. He did pretty much everything else at an exceptional level.

Considering the number of touches Thomas and Sharpe got in Vegas, Duke averaging 7.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game is very impressive. With position-less basketball and defensive versatility becoming the name of the game lately, Duke could be an intriguing defender to work with.

Given how players like Nicolas Claxton have started to expand their range on offense while remaining elite defenders, Duke fits the archetype regarding what the Nets want in their young players. If he starts to become more of a shot creator, he could turn into a viable backup wing that eventually succeeds Bembry.

Considering how the Nets were absolutely ravaged by injuries at times last year, and considering how most of their reserves are either ball-handling guards or aging front court players like Paul Millsap, don’t rule out the possibility of either Edwards or Duke getting tons of minutes this season.

Cacok is a very limited offensive player right now, as his ability to finish close to the rim is undercut by the fact that he is not a threat to score outside of the paint. With a ton of offensive-minded coaches at Long Island, Cacok might finally start becoming an effective shooter.

While Edwards and Duke are not going to replace Irving, they are serving as a sign that the Nets haven’t completely forsaken their desire to improve with young players amid all of their star-chasing. The Long Island Nets will be more important this year than perhaps any other G League unit.

With so many big contracts and injury risks, players being able to step up and fill rotation time is integral. If Duke continues to show off his two-way skills, Edwards improves on defense, and Cacok works to make strides in the right direction as a well-rounded scorer, the Nets should boast quite a robust collection of talent in the lower league.