If the NBA Finals have taught us anything, it’s that a lot of teams are nowhere near contention. The Cleveland Cavaliers steamrolled their way to the Finals, yet they’re looking at being swept. Their model is one to emulate, especially for non-playoff teams.
Not counting Kevin Durant–and Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston–the Warriors built their empire through the Draft. The best way to make a dent in the disparity is to draft well and cultivate your own talent.
Here are the five best projects for the Nets to explore:
1. Harry Giles, Duke: The Duke big man was once thought to be a top five player in the Draft, but injuries severely hindered him during his freshman year at Duke. Still recovering from multiple knee surgeries slowed him, making him an obvious question mark. That said, the Nets are in the gambling business. They don’t have a top five pick to make inroads. They successfully bet on Caris LeVert, and Giles could pay off big time if he can stay healthy. If he can’t, it’s not like they spent the No. 3 pick on him. It’s worth the risk if he falls.
2. Terrance Ferguson, USA: Ferguson bypassed Arizona on his way to Australia to play professionally. He can shoot threes, which is coveted in Kenny Atkinson’s offense. His athleticism makes him a threat on both ends of the floor.
3. Jonathan Jeanne, France: Another big man, Jeanne projects to be much more active defensively than anything on the Nets’ roster. His length and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect if he can develop the rest of his game. He needs to gain size and continue to develop his shot, but he’s not an answer for tomorrow. He could make an impact in a few years.
4. Rodions Kurucs, Latvia: Likely a draft and stash, Kurucs can play multiple positions and general manager Sean Marks trekked to Barcelona to watch him play. He has good measurables (6-foot-9, 225 pounds) and has plenty of room to grow as a 19-year-old. Like Kristaps Porzingis, he has already played professionally against top talent on the international stage. He also has a propensity for shooting threes, which will come in handy in Brooklyn.
5. Isaiah Hartenstein, Germany: Hartenstein has been compared to Donatas Motiejunas in terms of size. He is a good athlete and can stretch the floor for the Nets. He doesn’t, however, have the best shot mechanics, but he can be developed. He’s definitely a project, but his size and athleticism make him a suitable PF/C down the road.
Bonus: Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: A solid college prospect, the Nets would likely have to move into the middle of the second round to take him. Thornwell shined in the NCAA Tournament, and he would be the perfect instant-offense candidate off the bench. The shooting guard shot nearly 40 percent from the three-point line and 83 percent from the free-throw line.