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Ranking every player on Nets roster ahead of training camp

Nets, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Royce O'Neale, Nic Claxton, Seth Curry, T.J. Warren, Patty Mills

The Brooklyn Nets begin training camp in less than two weeks. Following an eventful offseason, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons headline the roster with a new-look supporting cast for the 2022-23 season.

Brooklyn has 19 of its 20 maximum roster spots filled ahead of camp. With that, let’s rank each player and detail what they could bring to the Nets this season.

19. Donovan Williams

Williams reportedly signed an Exhibit 10 contract, although it has yet to be officially announced by the team. The 6-foot-6 wing played his first two college seasons at Texas before transferring to UNLV and going undrafted this year. Williams averaged 12.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the Runnin’ Rebels last season. The 22-year-old is an explosive athlete and excels as a penetrator and finisher above the rim. Williams was inconsistent as a shooter in his first two years but converted on 43.6 percent of his threes last season.

The Houston native needs to add muscle to his lanky frame and isn’t the strongest ball-hander, but his high-flying athleticism and improved shooting give him three and D potential. He won’t make Brooklyn’s roster but should land in Long Island where he can continue to round out his skillset.

18. Chris Chiozza

Brooklyn announced the signing of Chiozza to an Exhibit 10 contract Friday morning. The point guard played 40 games for Brooklyn from 2020 to 2021, averaging 5.1 points and 3.0 assists per game on 33.7 percent shooting from three. Chiozza moved on and won a ring with Golden State last season. The 26-year-old showed promise as a distributor initiating the offense early in his Brooklyn tenure but has failed to recapture that production since. He will compete for a roster spot and could be sent to the G-League before the start of the season.

17. Alondes Williams

Williams signed with Brooklyn on a two-way contract after going undrafted out of Wake Forest. The 23-year-old combo guard was named ACC Player of the Year in 2022, averaging 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game for the Demon Deacons. Williams’ greatest strength is as a passer. At 6-foot-5, he has great size handling the ball and uses it to routinely find teammates on lobs, skip passes, and backdoor cuts.

He needs to improve as an outside shooter (27.0 percent from three for his career) if he hopes to make an impact at the NBA level. Williams will spend most of his time in the G-League improving that aspect of his game but remains an interesting developmental project for Brooklyn.

16. Yuta Watanabe

Watanabe comes to Brooklyn on a training camp invite after two seasons in Toronto. The 27-year-old played 88 games for the Raptors during that time, flashing his defensive potential and shooting 37.3 percent from three. At 6-foot-9, the wing/PF is not elite in any phase of his game, but his stingy defense and improved shooting could earn him a roster spot in a reserve role.

15. David Duke Jr.

Duke Jr. returns to the Nets on another two-way contract after reports said that he was holding out for a standard deal. The guard showed glimpses of high-level perimeter defense in 22 games for Brooklyn last season. The Providence product started 13 of those contests, averaging 4.7 points and 3.0 rebounds on 24.3 percent shooting from three.

Duke Jr. has the physical attributes of an NBA player, but his shooting struggles (37.3 percent from the field in G-League) and limited ball-handling ability make it difficult to see him cracking an NBA rotation. He will provide depth and bounce between Long Island and Brooklyn this season.

14. Cam Thomas

Thomas is among the most talented players on the team as a pure scorer. However, Brooklyn has proven commodities in Irving, Durant, and Warren in that area. At this stage, the Nets are looking for two things from role players: high-level shooting and defense. At 6-foot-3, Thomas does little on the defensive end to help his case. And despite being a gifted scorer, the rookie shot just 27.0 percent from three last season. Until he improves in those areas, guards like Edmond Sumner and Patty Mills are ahead of him in the rotation.

13. Edmond Sumner

Sumner signed a partially guaranteed deal with Brooklyn after missing last season with a torn Achilles. The Xavier product spent his first four seasons in Indiana, transitioning from a point guard in college to shooting guard with the Pacers. At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, Sumner’s strength lies on the defensive end. Questions about the guard’s game have surrounded his outside shot as a career 33.3 percent shooter from three. The guard did improve from three in his last season, shooting 39.8 percent on 1.7 attempts per game after placing a heavy emphasis on his catch and shoot ability over the summer.

Sumner offers a much-needed defensive option in a backcourt that includes Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Patty Mills and Thomas, who all struggle on that end. If the 26-year-old can build upon his shooting from 2020-2021, he could prove valuable in a reserve role.

12. Kessler Edwards

Edwards signed a standard two-year deal this offseason after playing 48 games on a two-way contract as a rookie. The second-round pick has a highly-valued skillset at the NBA level as a 3-and-D wing. Edwards impressed on the defensive end last season, using his quick feet and 6-foot-11 wingspan to challenge scorers on the perimeter. The Pepperdine product shot respectably from three at 35.3 percent on 2.8 attempts per game.

The experience Edwards gained as a rookie should provide confidence going into his second year. If the 22-year-old continues to develop as a defensive stopper and becomes a true catch and shoot threat from the corner, he could crack Brooklyn’s rotation this season.

11. Day’Ron Sharpe

Sharpe played 32 games last season after Brooklyn picked him 29th overall in the 2021 draft. The rookie impressed with great effort in limited minutes, averaging 6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. At 6-foot-9, 265-pounds, the center has the strength to bang down low at the NBA level. He also proved very capable of finishing in the pick and roll.

Some intrigue around Sharpe surrounds his potential as an outside shooter. He shot 34.4 percent from three in 11 games with Long Island last season. The 20-year-old presents Brooklyn’s only traditional center outside of Nic Claxton. The Nets will likely survey the market for a veteran big given Claxton’s injury history. However, Sharpe’s physicality as a defender and rebounder, along with his ability as a roll man and shooter, make him an interesting option for Brooklyn.

10. Patty Mills

Mills re-signed with Brooklyn on a two-year, $13.3 million contract after opting out of his player option. The 13-year veteran was among the hottest shooters in the NBA during the first half of last season before struggling to end the year. Despite this, Mills finished at 11.4 points per game and 40.0 percent shooting from three on 7.0 attempts per game. At just 6-foot-0, Mills’ defensive deficiencies hurt the Nets down the stretch of last season. The 34-year-old will likely be utilized as a backup PG, but his lack of size and limited defensive ability makes it difficult to see him playing a major role in a playoff series.

9. Markieff Morris

Morris comes to Brooklyn on a one-year, non-guaranteed deal. The 11-year veteran adds toughness and a strong veteran presence in the locker room. He played just 17 games for Miami last season after sustaining a neck injury during a scuffle with Nikola Jokic. Morris projects to fill a small-ball five role similar to that of Jeff Green and Blake Griffin in recent years. Finding a floor-spacing big to play alongside Ben Simmons is an important task for Brooklyn. Some forget that Morris was outstanding for the Lakers during their 2020 championship run, shooting 42 percent from three on 3.3 attempts per game over 21 playoff games. However, his shooting has tailed off since, and his ability to recapture it alongside Simmons is a major storyline to monitor in Brooklyn this season.

8. T.J. Warren

Warren played just four games the last two seasons after undergoing surgery to repair a navicular stress fracture in his left foot. He comes to Brooklyn on a minimum contract. That deal could prove to be tremendous value if the wing/PG regains his 2019-2020 form. Warren averaged 19.8 points per game on 40.3 percent shooting from three in his last full season. When healthy, the 29-year-old presents a true three-level scorer. He also proved very effective in Indiana as an off-ball cutter and spot-up shooter, converting 42.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes over his last two seasons. The North Carolina State product made strides as a perimeter defender before being sidelined.

If Warren stays active off the ball and continues his hot spot-up shooting, he presents a terrific complement to Brooklyn’s stars. He should be a factor in Brooklyn’s rotation if healthy.

7. Seth Curry

Curry started all 17 of his games with the Nets after Brooklyn acquired him at last year’s deadline. He was productive during that span, averaging 14.9 points per game on a ridiculous 46.8 percent shooting from three, all while battling an ankle injury. The 32-year-old is among the top three-point shooters in the league and presents a solid secondary playmaker in the backcourt. However, his defensive deficiencies make his spot in the rotation somewhat tricky. The Nets struggled on that end with Curry and Irving, both 6-foot-2, sharing the floor late last year.

With the acquisitions of Royce O’Neale and the return of Joe Harris, Brooklyn has floor-spacers who are better defensive options. Despite this, the Nets should use Curry when trying to maximize offense in lineups. Overall, Curry’s shooting and secondary ball handling will solidify his spot in the rotation.

6. Nic Claxton

Claxton returns to Brooklyn after signing a two-year, $17.3 million contract. The 23-year-old projects to be Brooklyn’s starting center following Andre Drummond’s departure. Claxton has developed into one of the better perimeter-defending bigs in the league, using his high motor and above-average athleticism to challenge guards and wings on switches. Offensively, he can run the floor and presents a lob threat in transition as well as the half-court. Claxton’s struggles from the free-throw line could make it difficult to have him on the floor in key moments.

The big man was a liability in Brooklyn’s first-round series against Boston, shooting 4-22 from the line. His fit as a non-shooter alongside Simmons will likely play him off the floor at the end of games. The Georgia product has also played just 79 games over the last two seasons while battling injuries and illnesses. If Claxton can stay on the floor and improve his free-throw shooting, he will be a solid starting center in his fourth season.

5. Royce O’Neale

Brooklyn acquired O’Neale for a first-round pick in May. The 6-foot-5 wing started 210 games over the last three seasons for Utah. O’Neale cemented himself as a high-level three and D wing during that span, shooting 38.4 percent from deep and frequently guarding the opposing team’s top scorer. The 29-year-old isn’t the flashiest player. He’s never averaged 10 points per game and doesn’t have a great handle, but he does exactly what the Nets were missing from complementary pieces last season: play tough perimeter defense and rebound while spacing the floor. If he performs the way he did in Utah, O’Neale could quickly become a fan favorite in Brooklyn. The five-year veteran should challenge for a spot in the starting five and be used in closing lineups.

4. Joe Harris

Harris returns for his seventh year in Brooklyn after missing the majority of last season with an ankle injury. The Virginia product has established himself as one of the premiere shooters in the NBA throughout his time with the Nets. Harris led the league in three-point percentage in his last full season, shooting 47.5 percent on 6.4 attempts per game, both career highs. His ability to shoot off of movement, frequently curling off screens and relocating for open threes, has made him an important part of Brooklyn’s offense. At 6-foot-6, the 31-year-old is a better defensive option than shooters like Curry and Mills. That added size also allows him to attack the rim on cuts and curls at a much higher rate. Harris is likely to start on the wing and should see even more open looks alongside Brooklyn’s big three and improved supporting cast.

3. Ben Simmons

Simmons is set to make his long-anticipated return after having back surgery this offseason. If healthy, the 26-year-old should fit beautifully with the Nets. Moving from a post-dominant first option like Joel Embiid to Irving and Durant will open the floor and alleviate scoring pressure on Simmons. Brooklyn’s stockpile of shooters and shot creators will allow him to focus on what he does best: play elite defense and distribute.

The three-time All-Star should be featured as a “point center” in certain lineups. The Nets can surround Simmons with four shooters to utilize his exceptional passing and driving ability. He should also be used as a screener for Irving and Durant to force defenses to make difficult decisions in pick-and-roll coverages. Overall, if Simmons is ready to perform mentally and physically, he steps into the best basketball situation of his career in Brooklyn.

2. Kyrie Irving

Irving returns for his fourth season in Brooklyn after a tumultuous period of contract negotiations. The seven-time All-Star opted into the final year of his deal after the Nets refused to offer him a fully guaranteed max contract. When on the floor, the guard is among the top players in the league. In 2020-2021, his lone full season with Brooklyn, Irving averaged 27.0 points per game while becoming the ninth player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club.

However, his refusal to comply with New York’s workplace vaccine mandate caused him to miss over half of Brooklyn’s games in 2021-2022, derailing the season. Mayor Eric Adams finally put that conflict to rest, and Irving now has the 2022-2023 season to prove his long-term worth. Brooklyn needs the 11-year veteran to finally emerge as a leader. Irving’s availability and ability to do so will once again be a top factor in the team’s success or failure.

1. Kevin Durant

Durant returns to Brooklyn after one of the strangest offseasons in NBA history. The former MVP requested a trade from the Nets in May and called for head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks to be fired in an August meeting with Owner Joe Tsai. Both were refused and Durant ultimately rescinded the trade request to return and begin his four-year, $194 million contract. The soon-to-be 34-year-old was still a top three player in the NBA last season, carrying Brooklyn to a 27-15 record and the second seed in the Eastern Conference before suffering a knee injury in January.

Durant finished the season averaging 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game on 52/38/91 splits. He is now joined by a far more balanced and versatile supporting cast than last season. The 12-time All-Star’s relationship with Nash and demeanor in Brooklyn will be one of the most followed storylines in the NBA this season. If the drama has been put to rest, at least for now, a motivated Durant once again gives the Nets legitimate title hopes in 2022-2023.