There are not many things that are guaranteed in the Brooklyn Nets’ (29-18) future. But that does not mean they cannot prepare for it even as they try to navigate the murky waters of superstar forward Kevin Durant’s injury.
They have slid from second to fourth in the Eastern Conference and, while it is a slight regression, they do not have much cushion.
Just four games separate them from the New York Knicks and the seven-seed.
A Play-In Tournament berth is a concern for the future with the All-Star break and Durant’s eventual return still yet to occur. Still, the mark of a good front office is an ability to always see the bigger picture and that appears to be exactly what Nets general manager Sean Marks is doing keeping tabs on New Zealand Breakers wing Rayan Rupert.
Nets Eyeing Prospect in GM Sean Marks’ Backyard
“Sean Marks…and Walt Perrin (New York Knicks assistant GM) were among those in attendance for the Bullets vs Breakers game in Brisbane, Australia this evening,” reported Olgun Uluc of ESPN Australia and New Zealand.
Marks, a New Zealand native, was not just there on a trip to see family and friends, nor was it just he and Perrin making the trip.
Nearly one-third of the league was on hand for the event.
“9 NBA teams have representatives at tonight’s NZ Breakers vs Brisbane Bullets game; primarily to see Rayan Rupert,” Uluc tweeted. “Among the teams in attendance, sources told ESPN: Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors.”
Rupert has averaged 6.6 points and 2.3 rebounds with 1.0 assists in roughly 19 minutes per game with 17 contests under his belt.
He has put up season-high marks of 14 points, six rebounds, and four assists but he did his best work in a 10-point, six-rebound, three-assist effort against the South East Melbourne Phoenix in October.
“Rupert…is projected to be the 21st pick in ESPN’s 2023 NBA Mock Draft,” wrote ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski in June of last year. “Rupert…has drawn comparisons to Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges because of the defensive versatility that comes with his wingspan, his ability to get into the passing lanes, and the intensity with which he plays on defense.”
The 18-year-old, 6-foot-7 wing with a 7-foot-3 wingspan had a 9/4/3 line in his most recent showing, a 99-71 victory over the Brisbane Bullets.
His sister, Iliana Rupert, is a 6-foot-4 center who was drafted 12th overall by the Las Vegas Aces in the 2021 WNBA Draft and represented France at the World Cup. Their late father, Thierry Rupert, played in the EuroLeague and captained the French national team, Wojnarowski noted.
Nets Immediate and Long-Term Future
Brooklyn currently has (complex) rights to the Philadelphia 76ers’ first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Philly is currently the second-seed in the East standings so that pick would likely be closer to the back of the first round.
Rupert was up to 18th in ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony’s latest mock draft.
Their more pressing need could be a big body to bang down low behind starting center Nic Claxton or someone who can do that but also play alongside him as a floor-spacer. They have shown interest in both Serge Ibaka of the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves big man Naz Reid.
There is only so much that they can do with their limited cache of expendable assets.