Rookies see roles dwindling as Nets rely on vets

Nets rookies did their job and generally played better than expected given their draft value, if drafted.

Now, however, their missions seem to be coming to an end.

Cam Thomas showed real scoring ability, Kessler Edwards showed real defending ability, big man Day’Ron Sharpe has an NBA body, and guard David Duke Jr. has a sharp, athletic NBA game.

All four contributed, likely far more than the often understaffed team would have liked, but with reinforcements added and with a run to come, the Nets will likely lean on their veterans during the playoff push.

Thomas, the 27th pick in the draft last year, was the best of the bunch. Sometimes he was even the option of choice in attack. But the Nets will find time for recent additions Goran Dragic and Seth Curry to their backcourt. Patty Mills became the first shooter to come off the bench, and at some point the Nets will hope Ben Simmons finds her way to the field. It’s a crowded group.

cam thomas
Getty Images
Kessler Edwards
Kessler Edwards
Getty Images

Thomas wasn’t on the injury report before the Nets’ Thursday win at Philadelphia (he suffered a back contusion on Sunday but rebounded from it), but he didn’t come on until the fourth quarter.

Edwards, selected 44th overall, logged five and a half minutes in the blowout, his longest run in a week and a half. The 21-year-old striker with good length has started 20 games this season but has barely played since Kevin Durant returned while Bruce Brown has established himself as the best small forward.

Edwards is on a two-way contract that should be upgraded by April 11 in order for him to qualify for the playoffs. To convert the pact, the Nets would have to clear a spot on the roster, a path that seems unlikely.

Day'Ron Sharpe
Day’Ron Sharpe
Charles Wenzelberg

The undrafted Duke also has a two-way contract, and he and Sharpe were recently relegated to the G-League. When Simmons makes his Nets debut (if he does), there will be no room for Duke, who is a good defender, but not a shooter. And Sharpe was replaced by Andre Drummond.

There are elements from each of the four players’ games that may leave the Nets encouraged, and Thomas, Edwards and Duke starting together on Dec. 18 represented the first time three Nets freshmen have started a game together since 2009.

The Nets’ return to health and the trade of James Harden for several players, however, may have erased the rookie roles.

New York Post

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