It was a busy evening for the Brooklyn Nets as the NBA Draft returned to Barclays Center, with general manager Sean Marks and his staff coming away with five selections. That included one more pick than they were originally slated to have, with the Nets agreeing in principle to a trade with the Phoenix Suns to acquire the draft rights to the 29th pick, North Carolina center Day’Ron Sharpe.
With their own first round pick at No. 27, the Nets selected high-scoring guard Cameron Thomas out of LSU.
“Ecstatic to have them first and foremost,” said Marks. “We know those guys very, very well, very comfortable with who they are both as pull and how they'll fit in from a system fit and so forth. With Cam first and foremost, incredible scorer, shooter, really enjoyed getting to know him and I think he's a fit with what we're doing moving forward. And Day'Ron, his size, mobility, his ability to stretch the floor, which to be quite frank hasn't been really seen yet, so we're excited to get both these guys in the gym, both continue to develop with our development coaches and go from there.”
Both Thomas and Sharpe are young players — 19 years old and turning 20 in the fall — coming off a single college season and each was among the top high school recruits in the country a year ago at elite prep programs.
A 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard, Thomas opted for LSU after starring at Oak Hill Academy and he jumped into a lead role for the Tigers averaging 23.0 points per game to earn All-SEC First Team honors. Thomas started all 29 games and shot 40.6 percent overall and 32.5 percent from 3-point range.
“I think he has an elite skill,” said Marks. “You watch him play, you watch him find his shot, create his shot, that's at a very, very high level. For him to continue to learn from — as you mentioned — maybe three of the greatest scorers the league has right now will be great for him. The other part of it is he is fearless. He's not afraid. And I think that's what we're looking for. We're looking for guys that are competitive, have that edge to them and a chip on their shoulder and I think that's what we found with both those players specifically in talking to them, watching them play, watching them compete at a very, very high level.”
Thomas was on site at Barclays Center among the players invited to the draft and said afterward that he had an early workout with the Nets and then a follow-up interview a week ago. He called James Harden his favorite player and said he’d been watching the Nets frequently the past season and is looking forward to learning from Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant.
"I'm here to bring a great attitude, being a great teammate, scoring power, just an all-around player,” said Thomas. “Scoring power, playmaking, defense, rebounding — whatever the team needs, I'm bringing that. I feel like Brooklyn made a really good choice picking me."
Sharpe was an equally coveted high school prospect after playing at high-powered Montverde Academy in Florida alongside two of Thursday night’s top four picks, Cade Cunningham and Scottie Barnes. A McDonald’s All-American, Sharpe also played travel ball under the tutelage of coach David West, a former teammate of Durant’s with the Golden State Warriors.
At 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds, Sharpe is a high-end rebounder and finisher. He averaged 9.5 points and 7.6 rebounds in 19.2 minutes per game at North Carolina.
In the second round, the Nets selected Kessler Edwards with the 44th pick, Marcus Zegarowski with the 49th pick, and RaiQuan Gray with the 59th pick.
Edwards is a 6-8 wing who played three seasons at Pepperdine, averaging 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds to earn All-WCC First Team honors last season. Over three college seasons, he shot 39.5 percent on 3-pointers on 4.1 attempts per game.
Zegarowski was a three-year starter at point guard for Creighton, averaging 14.1 points and shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range. He is the younger brother of Orlando guard Michael Carter-Williams, the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year.
With the next-to-last selection of the night, the Nets took Florida State forward Gray, who played three seasons for the Seminoles. Gray averaged 11.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in 26.3 minutes per game last season.
“Kessler, Macrus, RaiQuan we know all three of them very well,” said Marks. “This is what we're doing our job for, we've scouted them. We've seen them live. We really enjoyed sitting down and meeting with these guys. Again, all three very competitive, all three high upside. We enjoyed watching Kessler, his ability to stretch the floor, get out there a positional need for us. Looking forward to develop all three. Marcus, I'm sure you guys have seen him shoot and play at Creighton, and what his ability is can really stretch the floor. Again, a fierce competitor, very tough individual. RaiQuan is a very unique player, step out on the court, stretch the floor some, facilitate as a big, handle the ball. And if you've watched him play at Florida State, very well coached, a high, high basketball IQ. So we're really looking forward to getting those guys in the Summer League program with us.”