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Anthony Rushing

Rushing: Nets staying on message with draft picks

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The beat goes on for the Nets with their rebuilding efforts. Recent moves by Brooklyn, specifically the reported Dwight Howard trade and proposed contract buyout, indicate they’re positioning themselves for a big splash in the 2019 free agency pool.

But first, there was the Draft.

The 2018 NBA Draft is now in the rearview mirror. This year’s draft presented the Nets another opportunity to look for potential NBA prospects worth plugging into their developmental program.

With the 29th overall pick, the Nets selected Dzanan Musa from Bosnia and Herzegovina, then later on scooped up Rodions Kurucs from Latvia with the 40th overall pick.

Confidence is one area Musa and Kurucs are not lacking. The two new kids on the block bring plenty of potential and ambition with them from Europe to Brooklyn.

They also bring versatility, which they were not hesitant to point out during their introductory press conference.

“I can handle the ball a lot,” said Musa. “So, point guard, shooting guard, 3, whatever, I’m ready to do it.”

Now it’s time for them to show and prove.

The 19-year old Musa could bring an immediate impact to the Nets with his ability to score. When draft experts label you the “Bosnian Scoring Machine”, there’s a level of expectation which comes with that.

At 6’9”, Musa can pull up from the three-point line with ease. He’s an athletic wing player with the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. In Europe, Musa appeared to love coming out of the pick and roll and working towards the pull-up shot or an isolation play against the defender off a switch.

After watching video of Musa’s game it’s clear he hasn’t met a shot he doesn’t like taking. He’s an ideal fit for head coach Kenny Atkinson’s pace and space offense. But his shot selection will need to improve along with his defense.

Kurucs projects to be more of the long shot of the two youngsters. He’s also 6’9” with the ability to knock down the three-point shot and finish strong at the basket.

Both players have extensive international experience playing against national teams at their age group.

“It was very helpful to play senior basketball at such a young age,” said Kurucs. “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.”

According to reports, the Nets have had Kuracs on their radar for well over a year. There isn’t one specific skill he excels at, however his potential to be an athletic stretch big man in Atkinson’s offense makes him an intriguing possibility for a reserve role.

Both players reportedly slipped on the draft board due to their eagerness to play in the league now rather than potentially be stashed away for a year or two in Europe.

For a team in the position the Nets are, rebuilding with limited options, when opportunity knocks you open the door and welcome it with a smile. That’s exactly what Marks and Atkinson have been doing.

“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.”

Musa and Kurucs have talent and plenty of confidence, but they’re tailor-made for Brooklyn’s performance team. Musa needs to add some weight while Kurucs may need additional seasoning on his skill-sets. They’re both likely to benefit from seeing time in the G-League.

Patience, as always, is key here. Marks and Atkinson have stressed patience with Brooklyn’s rebuild since ownership brought them in. Give credit where credit is due. Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, and Spencer Dinwiddie have all progressed under the umbrella of Brooklyn’s performance team.

The track record, while yet to reflect in the win-loss column, indicates a trend in the right direction.

Musa and Kurucs may need some time, but they’re in good hands.


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