Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks and the rest of the organization have the task of building around their budding star Mikal Bridges, who averaged 26.1 points per game in 27 regular season games for the team last season after being acquired from the Phoenix Suns in February in the trade involving Kevin Durant.
They began that process last Thursday at the NBA Draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, their home arena, by selecting center/forward Noah Clowney with the 21st pick in the first round, swingman Dariq Whitehead with the 22nd pick in the first round, and forward Jalen Wilson with the 51st overall pick in the second round.
The 6-10 Clowney is an 18-year-old who played at the University of Alabama as a freshman last season. He averaged 9.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and shot 48.6% from the field. Dariq White is a 6’7” swingman from Duke who was projected to be a top-5 pick coming into the 2022–23 college season before undergoing foot surgery last year and again last month, hampering his overall performance. He earned the 2022 Naismith High School Player of the Year honors as a senior at Montverde Academy in Florida, where reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, former Net D’Angelo Russell, and current Net Ben Simmons, among many other NBA players, attended.
The 18-year-old Whitehead, a local product from Newark, N.J., relishes the opportunity to play in front of his family. He was a spectator at many Nets games when the team played their home games at the Prudential Center in Newark.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “Being away from home at a young age, going to high school in Florida, this is the first time where my family is going to be able to fully watch me play with everybody—friends and family—so like I said, I’m excited and thankful for the opportunity.”
Whitehead, who wasn’t one of the group of players formally invited by the NBA to attend their draft at the Barclays Center, said the snub will drive him to be the best version of himself.
“I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason,” he said, “and God has everything set in the right path; so…it’s definitely gonna fuel the extra motivation, but, like I said, I’m just here to think about what’s here now.”
Whitehead added what’s ahead of him that is most important.
“I’m here to focus on the future, so I’ve gotta put that behind me and…help try to contribute to this team and win basketball as much as possible.”
Wilson, who is the oldest and most experienced of the Nets draftees, helped the Kansas Jayhawks win the 2022 NCAA championship. The 6-8 22-year-old was a consensus First Team All-America this past season and Big 12 Player of the Year, averaging 20.1 points and 8.3 rebounds.
The Nets begin NBA Summer League play next week. Whitehead will sit out while recovering from foot surgery. Clowney and Wilson are expected to be in the lineup.