The 6-foot-7 former Blue Devil was once thought to be a potential top-10 pick but a leg injury limited him in his lone collegiate season as he averaged a modest 8.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.0 assists this past season.
“I think I can definitely get back to that guy who I was,” said Whitehead, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post on June 23. “I feel like people definitely from last year, they tend to think that I’m not athletic, and that was due to me pretty much playing on one leg. But I feel like I can definitely show the athletic part, and then really my playmaking.”
Whitehead certainly showed more than enough pop in high school.
Even with his perhaps disappointing stats this past season, Whitehead shot 42.9% from beyond the arc and averaged just under 1.0 steals per game.
He is expected to be fully recovered by training camp, ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
Nets ‘Comfortable’ With Dariq Whitehead’s Medical Outlook
“We felt very comfortable with Dariq,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said, via the Nets’ official YouTube channel on June 24. “If you could sort of rewind a year, there’s a chance that he was probably a lottery pick. So in order to get a guy like that fall to us, fantastic. We’ll take it.”
Even with the foot injury last season – which has him drawing comparisons to former Net and current Cleveland Cavalier, Caris LeVert – Whitehead’s game looked NBA-ready at Duke.
“Gonna come back better than ever,” Whitehead tweeted on June 7.
LeVert has battled injuries in his NBA career but made a career-high 74 appearances this season and has maxed out as a 20-point-per-game scorer in this league.
Nets Rookie ‘Not Gonna Try’ Rockets Big Man
The first of the Nets’ three picks on the night was Alabama big man Noah Clowney, taken right before Whitehead at No. 21 overall. A 6-foot-10 forward, he was half of the Nets’ efforts to double-down on frontcourt talent along with Kansas’ Jalen Wilson (6-foot-8, No. 51 overall).
Unlike Whitehead, Clowney’s athleticism showed often in college where he averaged 9.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and just under 1.0 assists and 1.0 blocks this past season.
But the rookie isn’t going to just challenge any and everyone in the paint.
Asked who he wanted to dunk on most in the league, Clowney responded by asking who the tallest player was – it’s currently Houston Rockets center Boban Marjanovic who is listed at 7-foot-4 but will soon be his fellow rookie, San Antonio Spurs big man Victor Wembanyama at 7-foot-5.
“Nah, I ain’t getting [Marjanovic],” Clowney said at the draft, via The Score on June 22. “I wouldn’t even try him. That’s a floater. … He’s like 7-5, 7-7, and 8-5 arms, bro. No.”
Clowney did not measure at the 2023 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago but Sam Vecenie of The Athletic wrote that it was “something in the ballpark of…7-foot-3” on March 28, which would rival that of starting center Nic Claxton.
Wilson, a former national champion, will be coached by fellow Kansas alum Jacque Vaughn.