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The Brooklyn Nets had a very surprising 2021 NBA Draft. They went into the draft with five picks, two in the first round and three in the second, after trading Landry Shamet top the Phoenix Suns for the 29th pick and point guard Jevon Carter.

This move came as a surprise as most speculated the Nets would trade away their draft picks for proven players. The Nets used all five picks, which goes against what most believed would happen. On top of that, with the draft over, the picks lose value because teams can no longer make their selection, meaning these six new players could be part of the Nets’ future.

Immediate Impact Players in the First Round

In the first round, the Nets drafted two players for positions of need. With the 27th pick, they drafted Cameron Thomas, a 6’4” 210-pound shooting guard out of LSU, and with the 29th pick, they drafted Day’Ron Sharpe, a 6’11” big out of North Carolina. Both are one-and-done freshmen and are both 19 giving them a lot of upside in the NBA.

Thomas is an elite scorer and shooter, averaging 23 points in 29 games for LSU. Even though he only shot 40% from the field and 32% from beyond the arc, his 88% shooting from the free-throw line means he will most likely improve his shooting over time. Thomas was the focal point of the LSU offense, taking around 17 shots a game and posting a 31.7 usage percentage. Thomas could be the immediate replacement to Shamet as a knock-down two-guard off the bench to play in open spaces along with at least one of the big three. Thomas also can create his own shot, as he did for LSU, and with the open floor-spacing could succeed at that.

Thomas is not the best defender, but that is not that different from Shamet; but Thomas has never been asked to be a defender, and maybe his frame can help him grow in that department. On top of that, he only averaged 1.4 assists, which means the ball might not move around as crisply with him on the court. However, Thomas averaged 1.7 turnovers, meaning he won’t make many mistakes. He will most likely be used mostly off-ball, taking the decision-making part of his game out of the equation as he develops. This is a high upside pick, with the possibility for Thomas to grow on both sides of the court, but his floor is to be a solid off-ball shooter coming off the bench.

Sharpe may not be a plug-in-play player or a player with a role yet, like Thomas, but his playstyle is something that the Nets will need down the road this season. The one thing that seems to stay the same is that he is a hustle player, making him a strong rebounder. On top of that, he is a solid defender who is light enough on his feet to play in the Nets switch-heavy defense. His Per 100 stats defensive rating in 93, along with 22 total rebounds, showing his hustle and rebounding skills. His offensive rebounding percentage is 18.1%, adding a skill that the Nets lacked in. The Nets ranked 27th in the league in offensive rebounds, and Sharpe might be able to help with that.

Now Sharpe only started four games for the Tar Heels and averaged just under 20 minutes a game. He was voted into the ACC All-Freshman team despite his smaller role. He also only took two threes all season, so it will be interesting to see if the Nets try to expand his range. Sharpe’s role is not yet defined but could grow into making himself a solid bench piece throughout the season. Sharpe’s job will be to play hard and grab rebounds, and if he is successful in the NBA like he was in college, his minutes will increase.

The Second Round Picks

Now second-round picks don’t usually have an immediate impact right away, but Kessler Edwards out of Pepperdine has the best chance to do so. He is a 6’8” wing with a 6’11” wingspan and seems to be the prototypical 3-D player. He is a Junior out of Pepperdine, and every season his scoring numbers and averaged went up, showing growth on the offensive side of the ball while also increasing his usage. In his three-year college career, Edwards shot 39% from beyond the arc on 5.7 shots per game. His defensive rating over those three seasons was 102.3. Coming from a small school, seeing him go up against NBA talent will be something to keep an eye on. It will be interesting to see his fit into the team and how he gets minutes depending on free agents, but it looks like he is the Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot replacement.

The other two picks are Marcus Zegarowski out of Creighton and RaiQuan Gray out of Florida State. Zegarowski is a straight-up shooter, and in his three seasons, he took five threes a game making 42% of them. His offensive game must have attracted him to the Nets, and with a promising Summer League can find a role on the team. If Mike James decides to leave, this will be a cheap replacement. Gray is a big 6’8”, weighing in at around 260 pounds. He is a bruiser, and at FSU, he played a significant role on defense. His defensive rating in his three seasons was never over 96, which the Nets could use. His offensive game is something to be explored, but he was drafted to be a defender.

My Nets Overall Draft Grade: B (Kind Of)

I was a little surprised that the Nets did not use their draft picks to trade for more proven players, and maybe we will see what happens in free agency and through the buy-out market in the season. Adding Carter and Sharpe for Shamet makes sense; trading in the offense for defense and drafting Shamet’s replacement in Thomas was a great move.

Honestly, this draft is only a B because of my trade expectations, but General Manager Sean Marks did a great job at drafting players to fill in roles for free agents that might leave. This draft makes the roaster cheaper and allows Marks to have more cap flexibility in the free agency, where they can sign the veterans, they wanted instead of trading for them. The only issue is if free agency does not work out, you are left with an inexperienced roaster that is playing for an NBA Championship.

 

 

 

Photo: NetsDaily/Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

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