Player to Watch: BIG man RaiQuan Gray

RaiQuan Gray is a BIG man, not just a big man. At 6’8” and a listed 268 pounds, his bulk had been his strength through his college career at Florida State, but where that bulk was a bit on the doughy side and it cost him in the Draft. He was taken by the Nets at No. 59, next to last, in the 2021 Draft. Brooklyn’s brain trust felt that with some solid passing skills and deep shooting, he could molded literally into an NBA player, perhaps a position-less one.

So, he spent last season in Long Island, a development project. He was essentially a domestic stash, signed directly to the G League deal. The Nets retained his NBA rights and he didn’t count against the cap. It was, he admitted, to Brian Lewis not the easiest time as he tried to change his body while dealing with a sprained toe that limited what he could get in shape. He did have his moments, however, particularly at the end of the season.

“I couldn’t do as much, be as active, as I wanted to,” Gray said. “It was definitely an up-and-down season. But I learned from it and grew from it so I was grateful for it.”

Since then, the 23-year-old has intensified his workouts, changed his diet, got stronger.

“It’s the summertime. Just try to keep grinding and by training camp I want to feel good. My body has improved since Long Island. I feel good moving, I think I look good so just try to build on that,” Gray said. “I went down a short size, shirt size from an XL to a large practice jersey.”

“He’s done a great job with his body,” said Adam Caporn, the Nets Summer League coach and new assistant in Brooklyn. “He’s in a lot better shape, low body fat, works through it and he’s doing it.”

In the Nets first game two days ago, he showed a bit of what he can do, as Lewis wrote…

Gray started Friday and logged 23:17, scoring eight points on 3-for-4 shooting, including 2-for-3 from 3-point range. He had seven rebounds, two turnovers and a steal. Perhaps most auspicious (other than the more toned frame) were his four assists to finish plus-21, which tied the game high.

Could he compete for a two-way spot if David Duke Jr. gets a standard deal with the Nets … or elsewhere? Alondes Williams already has the other. He likes his chances.

“I’m just a basketball player. I feel like you put me on the court, I can impact the game at any position anywhere,” said Gray, who played point guard as a junior and senior in high school. “As long as I’m on the court, I can help my team … I can play any position, anything.”

Caporn agreed, noting that there could even be a role for him at the 5 in a small ball lineup as long as he keeps up his conditioning and improves his defense.

“[He’s a] positionless guy for sure. His feel for the game, passing, is elite. As he gets in better and better shape and continues to improve his shooting, he becomes a totally legitimate NBA prospect,” Caporn said. “[If] you can make a 3, you can make plays for others and make a good decision and because you can see the game he can really grow as a defender, really solve some problems defensively…

“If he wants to play some small-ball five and be versatile, being in great shape is huge. You want to play with pace when you go small, create opportunities when you get in the gaps and find people and be ready to pass.”

He’ll be at again at 3:30 pm ET Sunday when the Nets face the 76ers on NBA TV.

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