While the core of the 2020-21 Brooklyn Nets roster is pretty much set, the NBA Draft remains a crucial offseason juncture.
Given the current state of the club, general manager Sean Marks may approach the scouting and selection process a bit differently than he has during the past four seasons.
The rebuilding Nets hit major milestones last year when they made the playoffs and proceeded to sign superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. Despite a turbulent 2019-20 season and no long-term head coach in place yet, the healthy version of this franchise is in win-now mode.
Brooklyn will likely pursue players and prospects who can contribute early and often while balancing a “best value” outlook.
Marks has a slew of second-round picks in his pocket, but only one first-round pick: Philadelphia’s 2020 slot via the L.A. Clippers. Depending on what the final standings are, that pick will likely be around No. 20 or so. The Nets may look to bolster their depth on the wing and at the forward spots, and one or more enticing options could still be on the board.
Patrick Williams, Florida State F
Even if Devin Vassell is off the board by the time Brooklyn picks, the Nets could still snag a standout Seminole.
Florida State’s “other” prospect offers explosiveness around the basket with glimpses of perimeter potential. On a Nets squad led by offensive savants who are at or past their physical peak, Williams could supply defensive bounciness and fill an important peripheral role.
Few prospects his size can cover ground like he does or get off the floor as swiftly. Williams is 6’8”, yet he has the nimbleness and acceleration to stick with guards and steer them out of the lane. He also finishes plays with lightning-fast verticality and timing, using his 6’11″ wingspan to contest shots with either hand:
Offensively, Williams won’t be a primary creator or scorer, even on Brooklyn’s second string. He’s not polished enough.
He’ll make his living as a cutter, lob threat, and by occasionally driving on closeouts. Right now, Williams seems more comfortable as a pull-up shooter than a spot-up threat. On catch-and-shoot sequences, his time from dip to release takes a bit too long.
That’s not to say he can’t score double-figures right away, though. He’s agile enough to make an impact as a receiver, offensive rebounder and intermittent jump-shooter.
Like many prospects, Williams’ ceiling is tied largely to perimeter improvement. If he gradually streamlines and speeds up his mechanics, he could be a formidable weapon.
As he continues to sharpen his defensive talent, he can also become one of the best forward defenders in the league. Williams has the burst and natural ability that many only hope for. And if he gets stronger, he will check a lot of 5’s as well.
A conservatively optimistic projection: Williams has tangible skills to be a starting forward, serving as the third or fourth scoring option and primary defender on a Nets playoff team. That’s well worth an early-20’s pick.
Josh Green, Arizona G/F
Green’s not a completely polished product, but he’ll instantly bring a tremendous blend of athleticism and skill to Brooklyn’s bench. He has a bunch of talent on both ends, including a promising three-point stroke, above-the-rim explosiveness and defensive speed.
The Australia native scored 12.0 points per game on 44.9 percent shooting inside the arc and 36.1 percent from outside. His catch-and-shoot form is perhaps his most NBA-ready skill, and he could serve as a respectable spot-up weapon for Nets creators like Durant, Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert.
He must improve his finishing technique and shot selection on drives to the rim, but he’s a slashing weapon in the open floor. Green shot 63.5 percent near the rim last season, thanks to a healthy dose of transition buckets and attacking closeouts.
The agile youngster should also bring a greater defensive impact than most one-and-done prospects.
Green displayed above-average lateral agility to wall off drivers, as well as alertness to disrupt opponents as a help defender. His positional and rotational discipline needs refining, but he will be a valuable perimeter guardian early in his career.
Aside from building on his aforementioned strengths, Green could become a valuable mid-range shooter in time. He shot just 27.8 percent on two-point jumpers last season (per Hoop Math), thanks to a bunch of questionable, off-balance attempts. If his decision-making and footwork become more consistent, his scoring touch will pay dividends. Scoring proficiently from all three levels would make him a dynamic supplementary weapon.
The best thing about his long term outlook is that we know he won’t be a bucket-or-bust player. He’ll also provide invaluable secondary playmaking and defensive juice off the bench. Brooklyn’s superstars will need that two-way energy boost.
Saddiq Bey, Villanova G/F
Villanova’s sharpshooting swingman might be the most NBA-ready prospect of this trio, thanks to his substantial improvement as a sophomore.
Saddiq Bey enjoyed a prolific year from long range, going 75-of-179 (45.1 percent), and he looks the part of a floor-spacing NBA forward. His shooting delivery is silky smooth, with the great fundamental discipline of keeping his shooting elbow in line.
Bey’s perimeter consistency will keep defenders attached and lend Brooklyn’s slashers more room. He’ll also pick up some of the three-point slack when Durant sits out a back-to-back or when Joe Harris needs a breather.
Bey is more than a long-distance threat. He’ll operate smoothly within the Nets’ offense, using his size and scoring touch to convert around the rim off drives and cuts. And perhaps more importantly, he’ll be a solid, versatile defender despite an unspectacular athletic profile.
Not only does Bey have terrific size and length (7′ wingspan) to blanket a variety of opponents, but he’s also positionally sound. Those two traits helped him compensate for a relative lack of explosiveness.
Sam Vecenie of The Athletic noted how he afforded ‘Nova coach Jay Wright lineup flexibility last season:
“I was also impressed with Bey’s switchable defensive ability. Consistently, Villanova just put him on whoever the opposing team’s toughest offensive player was, regardless of position, as long as it wasn’t a center. If it was a point guard like Devon Dotson, they were comfortable with that. If it was a wing or a forward, it was all good.”
With plenty of ball-handlers and rim protectors on Brooklyn’s roster, Bey could play to his strengths if he joins the Nets. He could enjoy an efficient, albeit modestly productive rookie year.
There is probably a limit to Bey’s star potential due to his underwhelming agility. However, he could carve out a long career as a high-end role player, thanks to his shooting and defense. The determining factor might be his shot-creating effectiveness.
Bey can handle the rock a bit and used some maneuvers to get shots off in college. But he struggled to consistently break down opponents and get into the lane against top-tier defenders and speedy athletes. Some NBA players gradually learn how to compensate and craftily find opportunities; we’ll eventually find out whether Bey has the ingenuity to maximize his potential.
If he does, he could notch 15-plus per game as a multi-faceted scorer.
Either way, his floor is higher than a lot of the first-round prospects in the 2020 crop. He has a great chance to be a key rotational piece on this Nets roster.
Dan is a TBW staff writer. After playing college ball at Franciscan University, he covered the NBA and NBA Draft for Bleacher Report for four years and the FRS Network for three years. He now co-hosts the Unlimited Range podcast and continues to campaign for Doris Burke’s promotion to lead analyst at ESPN. Follow him on Twitter: @DanO_Bball