The Nets should take Gorgui Dieng at No. 22 if he's available.
The Nets’ first-round pick will be their only pick, because they owe their 2013 second-rounder to the Minnesota Timberwolves from a 2011 draft-night trade for Croatian Bojan Bogdanovic.
Brooklyn has a few holes to fill this offseason, a fact that was affirmed following a first-round playoff exit at the hands of a depleted Chicago Bulls team back in early May. The draft will provide an opportunity for general manager Billy King to target a talented young player who will hopefully make an immediate impact.
The Nets could stand to upgrade at small forward and power forward, but as Tim Bontemps of the New York Post reported, many, including draft guru Chad Ford of ESPN, believe King will use the 22nd pick to bolster the team’s depth at center.
This year’s draft doesn’t feature a lot of clear-cut stars, but there should be a few quality players around when the Nets are on the clock.
Brooklyn’s top priority in this year’s draft should be finding a quality center to back up All-Star Brook Lopez.
Lopez had a breakout season in 2012-13, but he was the Nets' only real center. The team needs a physical and defensive-minded big man to spell Lopez and allow Andray Blatche to start at power forward.
Former Louisville center Gorgui Dieng would be the perfect candidate to fill that role. If Dieng is available, King shouldn’t hesitate to take him with the 22nd pick.
In his latest mock draft, Ford has the Nets selecting the 6’11”, 230-pound giant.
The Nets got a great season out of Brook Lopez, but they don't really have a credible backup for him. Dieng's play in the NCAA title game gave him a big boost in his draft stock. Not only can he block shots, but he's also a surprisingly good passer and is developing a nice face-the-basket game. Maybe more important to the Nets, he should be able to play right away.
Dieng averaged 9.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in his final season at Louisville. The Senegal native was the backbone of the No. 1 defense in the nation.
Although Dieng is projected to be a late first-round pick, there’s always the chance he won’t be around at No. 22. The best alternative for the Nets would be to select former Kansas center Jeff Withey.
Withey lacks Dieng’s length and athleticism, but he’s an elite defender who could make an immediate impact. The 7-footer averaged 13.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and a devastating 3.9 blocks for the Jayhawks during his senior season.
According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Withey impressed the Nets' chief scout Gregg Polinsky in a pre-draft workout:
I thought he was good, (I was) not disappointed at all... He stepped out; we had him shoot some 3s at the end, because we think that’s one of the things he can do, be a pick-and-pop 5. Those are hard to find. Obviously he gives you a presence at the rim defensively, a good solid defensive rebounder in college and he comes from a place in Kansas where it’s not done any better.
Like Dieng, Withey is projected to be a late first-round pick.
If Withey and Dieng are off the board when the Nets pick, King should look to address the team’s lack of depth at small forward.
“We need some more shooting on the bench to space the floor,” King told Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York last Thursday.
Former Ohio State star Deshaun Thomas could provide a useful scoring option off the bench for a team whose top two small forwards averaged a combined 11.9 points per game last season.
The 6’7”, 220-pound sharpshooter led the Big 10 in scoring his junior year, averaging nearly 20 points per game on 44 percent shooting. He led the Buckeyes to their fourth consecutive Elite Eight and was one of the best players in the top conference in the nation.
The knock on Thomas is his poor defense and lack of size, but his offensive skill set and abilities as a scorer make him an attractive option at the next level. His 6’10” wingspan should allow him to match up with some of the longer, more athletic forwards in the NBA.
Former N.C. State power forward C.J. Leslie could provide the Nets with athleticism and versatility in the frontcourt. At 6’9” and 210 pounds, Leslie is capable of playing small forward or power forward.
Leslie's length (7’1.5” wingspan) and explosiveness allowed him to play above the rim and dominate in the high post in college. He also possesses a solid face-up game and is an exceptional ball-handler for someone his size.
The 21-year-old was a notorious dunker for the Wolfpack and thrived in transition on both ends of the floor. He averaged 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks during his junior season.
According to Tom Lorenzo of Nets Daily, the Nets worked out Leslie in East Rutherford, N.J., on Monday along with Tony Mitchell (North Texas), Jamal Olasewere (LIU Brooklyn) and Keith Rendleman (North Carolina). He’s projected to be picked in the late first round or early in the second.
League sources confirmed last week that C.J. Watson will opt out of the final year of his contract, according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York. Watson, who averaged 6.8 points on 42 percent shooting, was a solid bench contributor for Brooklyn last year.
With Watson leaving, the Nets could target combo guard Mark Lyons in the draft as a replacement. Lyons averaged 15.6 points on 43 percent shooting for the Arizona Wildcats last season. The 23-year-old spent the first three seasons of his collegiate career at Xavier, where he averaged 15.1 points and shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc as a junior.
At 6’1” and 190 pounds, Lyons isn’t the most physically imposing player, but he’s quick, explosive and capable of lighting it up on the offensive end. He averaged 24.3 points and shot 41.6 percent from three-point range while leading the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Lyons played mostly at shooting guard at Xavier, but he took over the point guard duties with Arizona.
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