The Brooklyn Nets enter the stretch run with some hope after the return of Jeremy Lin. They won their tenth game of the season shortly after Lin's return, which coincided with Brook Lopez scoring his 10,000th point. While those positives are certainly not to be taken lightly, the Nets still have a number of unanswered questions looming over them as the season draws to a close.
One intriguing question is what the Nets will decide to do with their last roster spot. Brooklyn currently has 14 players under contract after buying out Luis Scola, and they should be actively searching for someone worthy of a flyer as the year winds down. There are a couple of interesting candidates on the Long Island Nets, as well as other unclaimed players that are worthy of at least a 10-day contract. The successes of Spencer Dinwiddie and Quincy Acy indicate that the Nets are not strangers to the D-League market. The three players discussed below may not end up in Brooklyn, but they all would be interesting fits on their roster that deserve a shot at an NBA contract.
After finishing the 2014 season as the No. 3 recruit in his high school class per ESPN, Cliff Alexander disappeared almost overnight. He declared for the 2015 NBA draft after a disappointing freshman season at Kansas, only to go undrafted. Alexander signed with Portland and played in eight games during the 2015-2016 season. He signed with Orlando for training camp but was cut before the start of the season. He played most of the 2016-2017 season with the Erie Bayhawks before being traded to the Long Island Nets. Alexander is currently averaging 14.6 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game for the LI Nets, despite only starting 25% of his games with them. He put up 23 points and 16 rebounds in their most recent game against the Austin Toros.
Alexander might be somewhat redundant after the signing of Quincy Acy, but he is still only 21 years old and has quite a bit of upside. His elite athleticism allowed him to dominate in high school, and is still the main feature of his game:
Alexander struggled in college to develop his game beyond his athletic gifts, and his game is still extremely raw. However, he has at times showed a decent mid-range jumper that could help him space the floor. He also has a solid hook shot that he can float over the reach of taller players when he cannot make it all the way to the basket:
Cliff Alexander would benefit tremendously from playing on the Nets roster, mostly due to the presence of Trevor Booker. Alexander might have All-Star level upside if absolutely everything goes right, but Booker is a model for what Alexander could be if he does not get a series of lucky breaks. Despite being undersized at power forward and not having the shooting touch to play on the wing, Trevor Booker has made a career out of elite athleticism and remarkable effort on both ends of the floor. Cliff Alexander has all of the tools necessary to follow in Booker's footsteps. The Nets would be well-served by allowing Alexander to learn from Booker, and he is still young enough to have the potential to be something more.
The Nets picked up some depth on the wing with the addition of K.J. McDaniels, but their depth at shooting guard and small forward is questionable. Most of their guards are combo guards who would be too small to guard forwards for significant stretches, and McDaniels and Joe Harris are really the only pure wing players on the roster.
Beau Beech would solve the size issue in their wing rotation. Beech was measured at 6'9" during the 2016 Portsmouth Invitational, but he can play on shooting guards in a pinch. He might be too skinny to be a reasonable option as a stretch four, but his shooting touch would be what earns him an NBA roster spot. He has a quick release and is adept at both spotting up and running around screens:
Kenny Atkinson's system centers around three-point shooting and Beech can fill in that niche right away. He is shooting 36.6% from deep this season in the D-League, but his percentages have improved as he has started to adjust to the NBA line. Beech has shot 42.2% from deep since January. His shooting touch and size may be enough to get him an NBA look.
Vander Blue might be less likely to get a contract from Brooklyn since he is not on the Long Island Nets. Nonetheless, Blue has consistently been of the D-League's best players for the past few years. Blue made his third straight D-League All-Star game this year and is averaging 24.9 points per game on 58.2% True Shooting. He can also knock down shots from deep, with a 37.4% mark from beyond the arc this season. Blue is also an impressive athlete with hops to make up for his relative lack of size for a wing:
Blue is 6'5.25" with a 6'6" wingspan per DraftExpress, but he complements that size with a 37.5 inch vertical and great lateral quickness. He occasionally gets lost on defense, and his Defensive Rating is slightly worse than the D-Fenders' overall number (107.8 for the team against 108.8 for Blue per NBA.com). That being said, he is an excellent scorer who can score from anywhere on the floor. He could help fill the scoring that the team lost with the departure of Bojan Bogdanovic. Blue was a First-Team All D-League selection last season, and that combined with his third straight D-League All-Star appearance indicate that Blue has consistently been one of the D-League's best players. The Nets could take a chance on Blue with a ten-day contract, and he has as good a chance as anyone to be the next D-League success story.