NEW YORK (AP) – When the worst team in the NBA finally got a chance to make a pick in the NBA draft, Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks was pleasantly surprised with the player the Nets were able to land.
Brooklyn selected big man Jarrett Allen from Texas with the 22nd pick of the NBA draft on Thursday night, taking a one-and-done freshman who blossomed at the end of his only season with the Longhorns.
The Nets did not meet with Allen until Wednesday when he got to New York for the draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and never did have an individual workout for him.
“We’re extremely fortunate to get Jarrett Allen,” Marks said. “He has not even remotely scratched the surface of what he can do.”
The 6-foot-11 Allen , who went to high school in Austin, Texas, averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds for the Longhorns, but 18.5 points in eight February games. Texas finished a disappointing 11-22 and out of the NCAA Tournament.
“If you look at how he has improved in his very short time at Texas, it’s exciting for us,” Marks said, adding that part of the reason the Nets did not work out Allen was because they did not expect him to be available when they picked.
Brooklyn had the worst record in the NBA last season (20-62) and the best chance to win the draft lottery, but no chance to take advantage of it because the previous regime had traded the pick to Boston in 2013 in a deal that brought Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets. The Celtics, via the Nets, won the lottery and then traded to the pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, who took guard Markelle Fultz from Washington.
The Celtics also hold Brooklyn’s first-round pick next season.
Without top picks to rebuild the Nets, Marks made his big move earlier in draft week.
The Nets traded pick No. 27 and center Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and center Timofey Mozgov. Russell was the second pick in the 2015 draft. The Nets had to make the 27th pick before the trade could become official and took Kyle Kuzma from Utah for Los Angeles.
Russell showed flashes of greatness playing for lousy teams in Los Angeles. Last year, he averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists. He also struggled in stretches, lost his starting job and at times showed a lack of maturity.
“When you’re able to get a talent like that in your gym, we’re excited about that,” Marks said. “I’m not concerned about the maturity and so forth.”
The Nets also have Jeremy Lin at point guard, but Marks said he and coach Kenny Atkinson liked the idea of being able to play with two ball handlers on the floor.
“To have both those guys, I think that gives us a lot of versatility,” Marks said.
In the second round with the 57th overall pick, the Nets selected 6-foot-9 Aleksandar Vezenkov from Cyprus. Marks called the 21-year-old an elite shooter.
After moving Lopez and getting the 7-foot-1 Mozgov, the Nets still needed size. Allen is still developing offensively, but his length and athleticism provide potential for him to make an immediate impact as a rebounder, defender and player who can get to the basket.
“I see my role is being a rim protector,” Allen said in an interview with ESPN at Barclays Center, where he will play for the Nets. He averaged 1.5 blocks per game last season.
Allen, 19, was the 15th of 16 freshmen taken in the first round of the NBA draft, breaking the record of 14 taken last season.
“He fits this modern NBA where you have big guys who are versatile, who really get up and down and run,” Marks said.
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