With the Brooklyn Nets now officially in offseason mode, it’s time to look at the decisions may make in one of the most exciting times of the year: the NBA Draft.
Possessing two picks (No. 21 & No. 22) in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft, the Nets have an opportunity to add inexpensive talent, depth, and most important a diamond in the rough to their roster.
Having selected a microwave scorer in Cam Thomas with the 27th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and a starting enter in Nic Claxton with the 31st overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, there should be confidence in Brooklyn’s ability to do just that. Though their roster-building techniques have been questionable in a more general sense, that concern shouldn’t extend to their scouting personnel.
What complicates matters for the Nets this offseason are the contract statuses of several rotation players. Starting forward Cam Johnson will be a restricted free agent with several interested suitors. Starting guard Spencer Dinwiddie will be on the final season of his contract. So too will Claxton.
Then there’s the elephant in the room: 3-time All-Star Ben Simmons.
Simmons, who flashed at times for the Nets last season, still left plenty to be desired with his play and his health.
However, with two seasons and $78.2 million remaining on his contract, Brooklyn has to decide whether to try to make him with their projected core or to trade him for less value than they received him for.
That said, it won’t be the simplest offseason to navigate.
Still, the Nets have a few clear needs ahead of the 2023 NBA Draft.
3 early first round draft targets for Nets in 2023 NBA offseason
Although Nic Claxton is a fine defensive center, his thin frame stands out so often when matched up against players like Joel Embiid that the Brooklyn Nets simply finding a bigger big man to man the pivot for them seems inevitable.
In this case, where Claxton is 6-foot-11 and 215 pounds, Barca center James Nnaji is physically dominant at 7-foot-o and 250 pounds. 18-years-old and an international prospect, Nnaji will likely need a bit of time to acclimate himself to the level of competition. There may be potential language barriers as well, as Nnaji was born in Makurdi, Nigeria but played in Spain since 2020.
In any case though, expect Nnaji to make plenty of plays based on just his athleticism alone in the meantime.
A high leaper and powerful dunker, Nnaji can be a great rim-running and lob threat on the offensive end, a role that Claxton already occupies.
Defensively, Nnaji doesn’t just have the size that Claxton lacks though. He also is a big man capable of guarding some players out in space because of his footwork and hip flexibility when backpedaling.
Simply put, he’s a solid big man prospect that can help them on both ends. Especially if Claxton signs elsewhere in the 2024 offseason.
The Brooklyn Nets are probably going to be a team that takes plenty of threes moving forward, at least as long as Jacque Vaughn is the head coach, and the outside shot continues to be a premier weapon.
If that’s the case, then Duke Blue Devils wing Dariq Whitehead is an interesting prospect for them to consider.
The top-ranked high school recruit in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RCSI) coming out of Montverde Academy in 2022, Whitehead averaged 8.3 points per game while shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range as a true freshman. Listed at 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Whitehead projects to be a valuable 3-and-D player at the next level, and that’s exactly the type of wing that Brooklyn could use.
Shooting 32.6 percent from 3-point range in their First Round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers this postseason, the Nets have several sharpshooters entering free agency this year: guard Seth Curry, forward Cam Johnson, and forward Yuta Watanabe.
Next offseason, even more of their 3-point threats will be entering free agency: guard Spencer Dinwiddie, guard Cam Thomas, guard Patty Mills, wing Royce O’Neale, and wing Joe Harris.
Suffice it to say, getting a player with Whitehead’s shooting touch has a great chance of being beneficial for the Nets moving forward.
UCLA Bruins wing Amari Bailey is another prospect that was highly touted coming out high school in 2022, leaving Sierra Canyon as the 10th-ranked recruit in the RCSI.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 185 pounds, Bailey averaged 11.2 points and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from 3-point range. A high energy backcourt piece with playmaking potential, Bailey could be a valuable piece moving forward.
Especially with guards like Seth Curry and Cam Thomas entering free agency over the next couple of seasons. In fact, because he has better size and defensive upside than both Curry and Thomas, Bailey could be an even better piece than both of them.
Bailey is currently projected to be drafted in the late first-round or early second-round, which should put the Nets in perfect position to select the talented wing.
Just having turned 19-years-old in February, Brooklyn might be the perfect place for Bailey, as he and the franchise can grow together for the foreseeable future.