A Longer Look at the Nets Draft

This might be the last time for a few years, but the Nets actually managed to walk away from this years draft with three new prospects, two of which were first-rounders. Analysis of the trade can be found elsewhere, this is strictly an introduction to and overview of each prospect, along with analysis of their potential fit on the Nets.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: Hollis-Jefferson is one of the premier defensive prospects in this class, and arguably the best wing defender of the whole group. Virtually everything you would want from a defender, Hollis-Jefferson has. He’s super quick, long (7’2″ wingspan), well built, explosive off the ground, has fantastic instincts, and plays with the energy and intensity that all great defenders do. In college he guarded 1-5, and his quickness combined with his length and strength should make him effective switching onto almost any player in the NBA, the only exception being a truly dominant big guy like Demarcus Cousins. There’s no telling how fast he will be able to pick up advanced NBA defensive schemes, but he should be a great one-on-one defender from the start, and his awareness in college was very good so he will probably turn into a great team defender in time. Ultimately, Hollis-Jefferson has a real chance at becoming one of the best wing defenders in the NBA, the type you can stick on whoever the opposing team’s best perimeter player is and be happy with it.

Why then, did such an elite defender fall to the 23rd pick? Well, he cannot shoot, at all. Last year at Arizona he shot 20.7% from three, and defenders frequently ignored him anywhere outside of 15-feet. His form is pretty broken, and it is unlikely Hollis-Jefferson ever turns himself into an outside threat. The other aspects of his offensive game are much more palatable. Hollis-Jefferson’s ball-handling is a bit wild, but he’s quick and shaky with his moves, and when he gets into the lane he flies into the body of defenders to get to the foul line or finish spectacularly with his athleticism. Additionally, Hollis-Jefferson is a very good passer for a wing, and a great cutter off the ball. Defenses will sag off Hollis-Jefferson and really hurt a team’s spacing, but he can make them pay with his cutting, passing, and finishing ability. Hollis-Jefferson can probably get away with his lack of shooting in the regular season, but in the playoffs there is a chance teams will be able to scheme him off the floor like Golden State did with Tony Allen. Still, Hollis-Jefferson was a good value at 23, and if he did miraculously turn around his jumper his upside would be enormous.

Fit: Hollis-Jefferson’s immediate fit with the Nets makes sense, and his drafting might be a sign that the Nets are not going to re-sign Alan Anderson. Between Joe Johnson and Bojan Bogdanovic the Nets have two offensively oriented wings, so adding a third wing who specializes on the defensive end makes sense. Hollis-Jefferson is the rare rookie who might be able to step in and have an immediate impact on the defensive end, and it will be fun to see if the Nets give him a chance against some of the NBA’s star wings.

Chris McCullough: McCullough is one of the more athletic and skilled players in this draft. Standing at 6’9 with an over 7’3 wingspan McCullough is clearly suited to play power forward, but his quickness and leaping ability allow him to be a free safety type threat on the defensive end. Playing in Syracuse’s zone McCullough had free reign to make plays on the ball, and he used his length and athleticism to rack up and impressive 2.3 steals and 2.9 blocks per-40 minutes pace adjusted. His frame is somewhat frail, and his awareness is inconsistent at best, so McCullough is going to take some time to adjust to NBA defense, but he has the physical tools to be a very good defender down the road.

Offensively, McCullough uses that same length and athleticism to run the floor and dive in pick and roll sets for impressive finishes at the hoop. Unfortunately, McCullough did have some struggles finishing at the hoop because he tended to try and shy away from contact, and his touch wasn’t good enough to complete the difficult shots he attempted. As a shooter, McCullough isn’t consistent yet, but he has pretty nice form and has shown the ability to hit from 18 feet confidently. His 56.3% FT% is a bit concerning, but McCullough’s solid form and confidence in shooting from the deep midrange gives some hope he could even develop range to the corner three later in his NBA career. If he’s not shooting from outside or right at the rim, the rawness of McCullough’s game can get exposed. He’s a pretty good ball handler for his size, but his decision making is shaky, and he is turnover prone when he tries to take his man off the dribble or find teammates. Like Hollis-Jefferson, McCullough was good value at 29th, and though I would’ve preferred the Nets take Kevon Looney who went next, McCullough is a really fluid athlete who has the chance to turn into a skilled offensive player and defensive force.

Fit: One of the reasons McCullough fell all the way to 29th is that he is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered midway through Syracuse’s season. Coming off the ACL tear McCullough won’t play in summer league, might not play in training camp, and will probably get less minutes at first than the typical first round rookie due to his injury. Once healthy, McCullough is a good fit next to the slower moving Brook Lopez, and McCullough can play a similar role to the one Thad Young did last year, whether or not Young stays around with the Nets.

Juan Vaulet: Vaulet was billed as the draft’s mystery man coming in, but after going 39th it’s clear NBA teams had him on their radar. I’ve only seen two full games of his, but Vaulet is an interesting long-term prospect. Vaulet is an athletic wing, and just from my own anecdotal observation he looks to be very long as well. Defensively Vaulet is a very good prospect, as he is quick on the ball, and plays very physical, allowing him to switch onto big guys and compete well. Off the ball, Vaulet isn’t a big time defensive playmaker like the Nets other two picks, but on the ball Vaulet’s quickness and physicality are really impressive.

On the offensive end, Vaulet plays a similar brand of physical, aggressive basketball. He attacks the rim with abandon, off the bounce on his own, cutting to the basket, and crashing the offensive glass as hard as any wing I’ve seen. Around the hoop Vaulet is a good leaper, and isn’t afraid to jump through contact, resulting in him spending a lot of time at the foul line. At the foul line, Vaulet isn’t so impressive, he’s a pretty bad free throw shooter, and a reluctant shooter from outside the arc, though his form isn’t that bad. As a creator and passer Vaulet has good vision, is very unselfish, and has a nice low handle, but he doesn’t execute many advanced dribble moves. It will be key for his NBA career to improve his jump shot because Vaulet’s offensive game relies on attacking the basket with his quick first step in straight lines, and he will need defenders to play tighter up on him to be able to attack at an NBA level. At 39th Vaulet is a good value, he looks like he could be a good defender, and his jump shot isn’t that far off from making him a useful offensive player.

Fit: Vaulet is a bit redundant with Hollis-Jefferson, but if Vaulet does end up proving his worth as an NBA player the Nets will be happy to have four good wings, a rarity in today’s wing scarce NBA. I’m not sure when Vaulet will come over the Nets, and if he comes over this year he may not play much, but hopefully he will get a real shot in the NBA sometime in the next couple years.

Overall this looks like a very good draft for the Nets. Last year’s Nets team was one of the most unathletic in the league, and adding three young and dynamic athletes will be good for the Nets, and their fans. Most importantly, every player the Nets pick seemed like fine or even good value for where they were drafted, something I didn’t expect from the Nets management. The Nets might not be adding much young talent the next couple years, but they did a very good this year, and hopefully these guys will come to be staples of the Nets team down the road