Nets’ young guns eager to fit in fast
Draft picks Musa and Kurucs part of GM Marks’ rebuilding plan
They can play a variety of positions, shoot it from the rafters, get up and down the floor at break-neck speeds and, perhaps most importantly, think well on their feet.
These are just a few of the plaudits Nets general manager Sean Marks chose to throw out at the local media gathered at the team’s HSS Training Center in Sunset Park last Friday as Brooklyn officially said hello to the team’s newest draftees, 19-year-old Dzanan Musa and 20-year-old Rodions Kurucs.
“We’re thrilled to have both these young men here,” Marks gushed after both players posed for photos with their Nets jerseys, Musa donning No. 17 and Kurucs wearing No. 30.
Musa was selected 29th overall in the opening round of last Thursday’s NBA Draft at the Barclays Center and Kurucs came to Brooklyn via the team’s second-round pick, 40th overall.
With both players standing at 6-foot-9, Marks chose the international duo for its combined dexterity and ability to play small as well as big.
The Nets’ run-and-gun, 3-point shooting style is currently without a steady Stretch-4, meaning a power forward who can extend the floor with a pure outside stroke.
Musa and Kurucs have both proven themselves adept at handling the ball well and shooting from long distances during their stints on the European pro circuit, with the former starring at Cedetiva in Croatia and the latter spending three years with powerhouse FC Barcelona.
While neither should be expected to be in the starting lineup for Brooklyn on Opening Night next season, both will see playing time during the upcoming Summer League campaign.
From there, it’s up to Marks and Atkinson to develop and further evaluate how soon the tandem can contribute at the NBA level.
“Part of our job is to find talent, develop talent, but more importantly develop young men,” Marks noted.
“That’s going to be our jobs, from the front office, from the performance staff, from the coaching staff. We’re thrilled to welcome these guys to our Nets family.”
The family, which could grow exponentially in 2019-20 based on the $17 million in extra salary-cap space Marks cleared by swapping Timofey Mozgov for Dwight Howard earlier this month, has two new members, both of whom are eager to state their case for playing time sooner rather than later.
“It was very helpful to play senior basketball at such a young age,” said Kurucs, who has been competing on the pro level in Europe since the age of 16.
“We are very ready to compete at the highest level because we already know how it is in Europe to play against grown men. But we know we have to put a lot of work in and we’re ready to do it.”
Musa, nearly 30 pounds lighter than Kurucs at more than 190 pounds, knows that while his game is strong enough to compete in the NBA, his frame still needs development before he can grind through an 82-game regular-season slate.
“I want to gain some muscle on my body,” said Musa. “I want to work on that the entire summer. I want to improve my defense a lot because the guards in the NBA are very strong and very fast, so I want to be capable of guarding them and scoring on them. It’s going to be a process, but I believe I can do that.”
Now that Marks has picked out the talent, it’s up to the Nets’ coaching staff and training team to develop Musa and Kurucs this summer and perhaps in the D-League when the 2018-19 campaign commences.
“I look forward to getting them in here with our coaching staff, with our development staff in this system, and, to be brutally honest, to seeing what Kenny and the coaches and the performance team can do with them,” said Marks.
“These guys are both hungry. They’re competitive. They’ve got a certain fire and grit to them and they want to succeed. Those are some of the intangibles that you don’t see on the court, you see behind closed doors.”
One thing Marks was unwilling to do just yet was predict exactly how these picks might fit into the Brooklyn lineup, which is still a work in progress after the team made an eight-game improvement last year over its NBA-worst record of 20-62 two seasons ago.
“I would hate to pigeonhole any of these guys into, ‘You’re a 2-guard, you’re a 3-guard, you’re a 4.’ It goes back to how they develop, what their development plan is here,” noted Marks.
“Young guys coming into the league, there’s some stepping stones that they’ve got to go through. It would be far too early for me or anybody to decide this is the role or this is the position that they have to play. Let’s see how it pans out. But they do have a skill set — length, body size, IQ, all those intangibles.”
Nothing But Net: Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie was a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, but saw the honor go to Indiana’s Victor Oladipo Monday night. The lone Net nominated for a postseason individual honor, Dinwiddie went from G-League outcast to NBA standout within a span of two calendar years. The Los Angeles native also took home the league’s Skills Challenge championship at this past season’s All-Star Weekend in his hometown.
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