The Brooklyn Nets didn't give their fans much to cheer about in 2023-24. It took until the season's closing weeks for a significant silver lining to emerge: Rookie big man Noah Clowney. With the Nets out of the playoff race, the first-round pick entered the rotation and immediately flashed the potential of a long-term frontcourt piece.

Clowney — the fourth-youngest player in the NBA last season — averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks on 61/47/72 shooting splits over the final six games of the year. During an April 3rd win over the Indiana Pacers, he became the youngest player in NBA history to record 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in 17 or fewer minutes. Only five other players have ever accomplished the feat.

Many Brooklyn fans called for a youth movement amid the team's struggles last season. They got their wish this summer, with the Nets trading Mikal Bridges to the New York Knicks and entering a rebuild. While he was shocked to see Bridges go, Clowney knew he would be among the primary beneficiaries.

“I was actually playing pool with my family, we were playing 8-ball and ping pong. And then I see the trade on my phone,” he said. “[I was] in shock because obviously, I’m not in the front office. I don't know what's going on. I'm just working on my craft… But I feel like Mikal should almost feel proud in a sense. To get traded for five first-round picks is a superstar-level type of thing.”

“But on the contrary… It’s an opportunity for me, so I can't [waste it]. No shade to him; that's my dog. I love him, but to see us going into more of a rebuild, that’s an amazing opportunity to me, and I gotta try to take advantage of that.”

Noah Clowney and Nic Claxton form a new frontcourt in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Nets forward Noah Clowney (21) during the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Clowney's versatility is among his greatest strengths. After playing primarily center in the G-League last season, the 19-year-old made several appearances at power forward to close the year. At 6-foot-10, he's comfortable guarding on the perimeter and offers stout rim protection. Offensively, he has a smooth three-point stroke (36.4 percent as a rookie) and can put the ball on the floor to attack closeouts.

Clowney should slide in alongside Nic Claxton in Brooklyn's starting lineup next season. The duo flashed their potential in their limited opportunities last year. They combined for 12 blocks while holding the Toronto Raptors to 35.2 percent shooting from two during the Nets' final win of the season.

That defensive potential was among the reasons Clowney was excited to see Claxton re-sign with Brooklyn.

“That’s great,” Clowney said of Claxton signing a four-year, $100 million deal. “That’s great. We want Clax back. Us on the court together, we’ve shown that we can do a little bit, and I think we can improve on that, obviously. We can be really good together. I was excited to see him sign.”

Another Nets first-round pick gets his shot in Summer League

Noah Clowney should be Brooklyn's top player at Summer League, but he isn't the only second-year Net trying to make a name for himself. After undergoing season-ending surgery on his shin midway through 2023-24 — his third lower leg procedure in the last two years — Dariq Whitehead is fully cleared.

Whitehead, the nation's second-ranked high school player in the Class of 2022, saw his freshman season at Duke derailed by a foot injury. While his potential was enough for the Nets to select him 22nd overall in 2023, he appeared in just two NBA games during his rookie season while battling a shin ailment. But after a five-month rehab period, the 6-foot-6 swingman feels rejuvenated.

“This is the first time in my career since probably high school where I’m feeling like I could get out there and be myself again and contribute the way I know I should,” Whitehead told NetsDaily's Lucas Kaplan.

With Nets Summer League less than a week away, general manager Sean Marks said Whitehead will have no limitations.

“At this point, we’re gonna throw him out there,” Marks said. “He hasn’t played in two years on a consistent basis, so we have to temper that a little bit. But at the same time, I know the young man is itching to get out there and play and get back to form. So that’s exciting for us to see how it goes.”