The Brooklyn Nets are headed to Las Vegas with more familiar faces than you usually see on an NBA Summer League squad. That’s a product of last summer’s activity in which Brooklyn GM Sean Marks acquired five players through the draft and then added rookie free agent David Duke Jr. as well.
Let’s take a look at the roster available to coach Adam Caporn as the Nets prepare to tip off their five-game Summer League slate on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks at 7 p.m. EST.
CLASS OF ‘21
A year ago, Cam Thomas lit up Las Vegas as the co-MVP of Summer League after averaging 27.0 points per game and dropping a string of clutch shots. Thomas fronted a big Brooklyn rookie class for the 2021-22 season that saw its share of NBA action. Five of them remain in the mix as they return for their second Summer League run with the Nets and eye the next step in their development.
Start with Thomas, the No. 27 pick a year ago. The 6-3 guard put up 33 points and 46 points in two early-season G League appearances and never went back. Two days after that 46-point showing, he was giving Brooklyn a vital scoring lift off the bench. Thomas had his share of highlight moments — a game-winner against the Spurs, a career-high 30 points in Utah, and a dagger 3-pointer to finish off the historic comeback he led in a win against the Knicks. Those last two games were part of a nine-game stretch in which Thomas hit double figures every night and averaged 20.1 points per game. He finished his rookie year averaging 8.5 points over 67 games.
The Nets gave Day’Ron Sharpe his opportunity in January and the big man delivered five double-figure scoring nights in six games, starting with 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting at Portland and 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting in Chicago. Over a 15-game stretch, Sharpe had a per-36 rebounding rate of 14.1. While playing in 15 games with Long Island, Sharpe averaged 18.6 points and 12.2 rebounds.
Kessler Edwards was the first of Brooklyn’s three second-round picks last summer and spent the season on a two-way contract before being signed to a standard contract before the final game of the season. That came after Edwards had established himself with a regular spot in the rotation over the final month of the season. The 6-8 forward started 23 of the 48 games he appeared in for Brooklyn and shot 47.3 percent from 3-point range.
Signed last summer as a rookie free agent after going undrafted out of Providence, David Duke, Jr. earned a two-way deal with the Nets and split his time between Brooklyn and Long Island. In 22 NBA games, he shot 42.3 percent from 3-point range and in 14 G League games he averaged 15.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.
The 59th pick of the 2021 NBA Draft — Brooklyn’s fifth of the night — RaiQuan Gray played 19 games in the G League for the Long Island Nets. The 6-foot-7, 269-pound forward averaged 15.3 points. 5.2 assists, and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range.
THE NEW ROOKIE CLASS
While the Nets didn’t make a selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, they were aggressive in securing a rookie contingent for their Summer League squad.
Start with ACC Player of the Year Alondes Williams, who the Nets have signed to a two-way deal. The 6-foot-5 guard capped off a long climb through the college ranks that began with two years at Triton College, a JUCO outside Chicago. After winning a junior college Division II national championship there, he played two years at Oklahoma. But it was in his fifth college season, after transferring to Wake Forest, that Williams broke out, averaging 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game to lead the Demon Deacons to a 19-win improvement.
Noah Kirkwood was All-Ivy First Team at Harvard as a sophomore and senior (the Ivy League did not compete during his junior year) and has played for three Canadian junior national age group squads, winning gold at the FIBA U19 World Championships. He averaged 17.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists last season.
There’s a Texas touch to the rest of the rookie signees. Guard Donovan Williams is from Houston and played two seasons at Texas before averaging 12.7 points while shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range for UNLV last season. Forward Brison Gresham played three seasons at Houston before shooting 64.4 percent for Texas Southern last year. Taze Moore transferred to Houston after four seasons at Cal State Bakersfield and averaged 10.4 points and 4.9 rebounds.
The 2021 rookie class that returns to Summer League will find one more familiar face in Kaiser Gates. With the addition of Gates, half of the Nets’ 12-player roster played together last summer. Gates is a veteran of three G League seasons starting in 2018. He played the 2020-21 season with the Long Island Nets, averaging 9.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 12 games and then made four appearances with the Nets in Las Vegas last summer, averaging 6.8 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Yves Pons spent last season on a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, but the 6-5 forward played just 12 games at the NBA level. In the G League, he averaged 10.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in 15 games.