The Brooklyn Nets took what some might call a risk picking Dariq Whitehead with the 22nd overall selection. The former Duke Blue Devils guard had several injury concerns heading into the 2023 NBA Draft.
According to ESPN NBA Front Office Insider Bobby Marks, Whitehead is a “big upside pick.” He was the number two prospect entering college last season, Marks said. Injury concerns caused his stock to drop.
Some analysts had the Nets selecting forward Leonard Miller with the pick. Brooklyn had inside intel that helped them to feel more confident in drafting Whitehead, who could pair well with rising star Cam Johnson. The Nets' team doctor, Martin O'Malley, performed Whitehead's surgery.
The Duke three-point ace Whitehead suffered a brutal surgery setback earlier this month. He is expected to miss the Nets' Summer League season.
When healthy, Whitehead has impressive athleticism and a high ceiling as a player. The 18-year-old, 6-foot-7 wing is a plus-defender who shot nearly 43% from three-point range last season. Whitehead has been compared to Keldon Johnson and Miami Heat trade rumor subject Tyler Herro.
Whitehead will need to improve his durability and productivity for the Nets at the next level. He averaged just 8.3 points per game last season, and he has a long road ahead considering his recent setbacks.
Prior to drafting Whitehead, the Nets took Noah Clowney, a player they coveted, with pick 21. Clowney was originally mocked to the Lakers at pick 17. The 6-foor-10 Alabama product Clowney is a top-tier college basketball level defender who has upside but needs development at the next level.
The hope for the Nets in the post-Kevin Durant era is that a combination of Whitehead, Clowney, and the team's young core can develop together in time for another playoff run. Thanks to the team's medical staff, they may have just gotten themselves a steal.