How smart draft picks helped shape the Brooklyn Nets

Art or Photo Credit: USA Today

This week marks the arrival of the annual NBA Draft where teams get the opportunity to shape the future of their rosters and the league for years to come.

For the Brooklyn Nets, the draft has been one of the most important components in rebuilding and strengthening the organization into a team that has made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and a marquee destination for top-tier talent.

General manager Sean Marks and his front office have shown a real knack for finding talented prospects deep in the draft since he took over in February of 2016, and they’ll get their next chance in Wednesday’s 2020 Draft with the 19th and 55th overall picks.

Here now we’ll take a look back at three draft picks that exemplify the kind of high-upside selections Marks has made during his tenure as GM as his team prepares for another exciting season in Brooklyn.

Caris LeVert – 2016 draft: First round, 20th overall (via trade with Indiana)

With the 20th overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, LeVert was taken by the Pacers and then traded over to Brooklyn as part of a deal for Thaddeus Young. LeVert was the first player drafted by Marks, and since his arrival in the NBA the former Michigan star has grown into one of the most exciting young players in basketball.

After overcoming injuries both in college and in his young professional career, LeVert has been tabbed as a future "third star" for the Nets alongside Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and could be one of the team’s long-term building blocks on their path toward a championship. In four seasons with the Nets, LeVert’s PPG averages have risen from 8.2 to 12.1 to 13.7 to 18.7 last year, with a steadily increasing number of minutes played to match.

There’s little doubt LeVert’s potential as a future All-Star talent was an alluring aspect of Irving and Durant’s eventual moves to the Nets, and with some good injury luck going forward, LeVert has the potential to be one of the best young players in the East after inking a three-year extension back in August of 2019.

Jarrett Allen – 2017 draft: First round, 22nd overall

When the former Texas Longhorn center fell to Brooklyn in the first round of the 2017 draft, Marks was ecstatic: “He’s an incredible young man, very versatile, and he has not even remotely scratched the surface of what he can do. If you look at how he has improved through his very short time in Texas, it’s exciting for us,” Marks said following the draft that year. “This was extremely fortunate to get Jarrett Allen.”

Though he played just one year at Texas, the 6-foot-11 big man has developed into a formidable defensive force on the interior, collecting numerous superstars on his growing career list of highlight rejections at the rim. With his signature afro and coolness under pressure, Allen has averaged better than a block per game in each of his three NBA seasons in Brooklyn, along with a steady uptick in the scoring column from 8.2 PPG to 11.1 PPG last season.

As he prepares for the addition of fellow ex-Longhorn Kevin Durant, Allen’s athleticism and defensive acumen has solidified him as one of the key core pieces of a Nets organization aiming for big things in 2021.

Rodions Kurucs – 2018 draft: Second round, 40th overall

Perhaps not the same kind of impact player as LeVert or Allen, Kurucs has been a bright up-and-comer after being selected in the second round of the 2018 draft. Still just 22 years old, the agile 6-foot-9 forward showed huge improvements from behind the arc last year, bringing his three-point shooting percentage up from 31.5 percent as a rookie to 36.7 percent with room to grow.

The Latvian native brings value to the rotation by spacing the floor and being able to guard wings at multiple positions with an awareness and confidence of a player well beyond his years. As a rookie, Kurucs played his way into a regular role on the team with nine games of 15+ points and a pair of double-doubles back in 2018. The 6-foot-9 forward still has plenty of time to keep developing his game at the NBA level and could be yet another shining example of a Nets draftee success story.

Be sure to watch the premiere of Nets Hot Stove on YES Network on Thursday at 7 p.m. as the analysis team breaks down the NBA Draft and all things Nets heading toward the 2021 season.