Kennedy Chandler put his faith in the Nets. Do they think?

In his quest for a two-way spot on the Nets’ roster, Kennedy Chandler has already faced strikes one and two. He only has one left.

Landing the final spot would be a home run for Chandler, keeping him in the NBA and giving him a chance to become Brooklyn’s latest reclamation success story. Missing out on that would be a bitter pill to swallow, despite the money he still lacks from the Grizzlies, who waived him after his rookie season in April. Because if you ask Chandler, he’ll tell you it’s not about the cash.

It’s about the game and getting back to his.

“Yeah, that’s the whole point of me playing this summer. I want to play every game, kill, dominate whoever’s in front of me,” Chandler said during his summer league stint with the Nets. “And not just worry about myself, honestly. You just worry about doing what I can do; then the rest will come.

“My agent will do what he does and I will do what I do. I told him I will do my part, you do your part.”

During his time in Las Vegas, Chandler was consistent in doing the things he does well; get in transition and get downhill with his impressive speed. But it’s the one thing the young point guard has been inconsistent with that could prevent him from landing Brooklyn’s final open two-way spot, behind rookie Jalen Wilson and Armoni Brooks.

It’s the shaky shirt. With Chandler, it always comes back to the jumper.

While Kennedy Chandler filled the box score in many ways this summer, he didn’t show that he had put his 3-point shooting woes behind him just yet.
NBAE via Getty Images

Shooting matches

It’s no coincidence that Brooks and Wilson led summer league teams in 3-point shooting at .476 and .458, respectively. The former’s 20 3-pointers were the second most in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately for Chandler, he’s on the other end of that spectrum. The wrong end.

After struggling through a 2-of-14 performance from 3-point range in Las Vegas — including 1-of-6 in Brooklyn’s summer league semifinal loss — to the Cleveland Cavaliers, that remains very much an issue.

“Yeah, I think it’s always just confidence in his shot,” said Nets assistant Trevor Hendry, who served as head coach of the summer league squad.

“He took one on the wing (last week) right in front of our bench. I loved it. Keep shooting it. I have the utmost confidence in him shooting the 3 and making the 3, whether it’s in games here, preseason, wherever he goes next. That’s his thing to me, his 3-point shot; because that’s the one thing holding him back.”

It was basically the one thing that kept him in — and sealed his exit from — Memphis.

Chandler had arrived there as a star in the state. He played at Tennessee as a freshman and had become friends with franchise player Ja Morant entering last year’s NBA Draft as a projected first-round pick. Concerns about his lack of size — and even more so his lack of an outside shot — saw him fall into the second round.

Kennedy Chandler #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers passes against the Michigan Wolverines in the first half during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 19, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Although somewhat undersized, Kennedy Chandler made a big impact in his one year in Tennessee, working himself onto the Spurs and Grizzlies radar.
Getty Images

Entering (and exiting) Memphis

Technically drafted by San Antonio at No. 38 overall, the Grizzlies gave up a second-round pick and $1 million in cash to acquire Chandler. In a further show of how highly they regarded the guard, Memphis handed him a four-year, $7.1 million contract (the most for any second-rounder last year), with three years and $4.9 million of that guaranteed.

It was a big investment that didn’t pay off.

Chandler had just 36 mostly ineffective appearances as a rookie, and was eventually released.

He is still owed $3.7 million by the Grizzlies — $1.7 million this upcoming season, another $2.1 million next. And he still has his elite athleticism, blistering speed and the skywalking 41 ½-inch vertical he flashed at the 2022 NBA Draft Combine.

It’s easy to see why Brooklyn — going back to their player development roots — would take a flier on Chandler, still just 20 years old with plenty of room to develop.

But after shooting just .133 from 3-point range for Memphis as a rookie and .207 in the G League last year, Chandler was even worse for Brooklyn in the summer league at .143. Those kinds of shooting issues, generously listed at 6-foot, can make it difficult to stick in the NBA, a shooting league.

Kennedy Chandler #1 of the Memphis Grizzlies handles the ball during the game against the Atlanta Hawks at FedExForum on December 12, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Acquired by Memphis in a draft-day trade with San Antonio last year, Kennedy Chandler failed to make a consistent impact off the bench as a rookie.
Getty Images

Play at Las Vegas

Chandler did a little bit of everything else in Las Vegas, averaging 14.0 points, 5.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds (contrary to his size) and even 2.0 steals.

“[The key was] don’t be rushed,” Chandler said. “As a rookie I didn’t get many minutes; it was more of a learning year for me, learning from Tyus (Jones) and Ja. So I could thank Tyus and Ja as they just preached to me – especially Tyus, for sure.

“I was sitting next to it [Jones] on the plane ride after the game, on the way to the game. So we talked a lot about basketball and he was just a great mentor to me, him and Ja. So I told him the other day, just from seeing them, [I] don’t just watch the game; look what they do on the field, look what they see, it says. I think it was like a learning year for me, and now I get to show it this year.”

Chandler shot .357 overall and finished a solid plus-9; but he needs to prove that he can be more accurate.

That task was made more difficult in Las Vegas because leading up to the semifinals, teams inexplicably played him up and pressured him.

“I’ve tried,” Chandler said. “I wanted to prove, I want to show it. [But] if a team, a player keeps pushing me, I have to knock him down; so it’s on them if they don’t know the scout.

Kennedy Chandler #1 Tyus Jones #21 and Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies arrive before the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 20, 2023 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California.
Kennedy Chandler credits the time he spent with Tyus Jones (center) and Ja Morant (right) for helping him see the game like a seasoned point guard does.
NBAE via Getty Images

“I’m not saying they don’t know the scout, but I want to use my advantage, my God-given speed to go downhill and find my teammates open. But when the 3-ball is there, I take it.”

Chandler took them in summer league; but missing a dozen of the 14 he attempted didn’t help his cause. Still, the point guard insists he’s capable of hitting them; he just needs to convince the Nets, or any other team looking at him.

“Maybe my percentage from last year [wasn’t great], but I hardly played. It’s probably once every 10 games I shot it, or once every 20 games I shot a 3,” Chandler said. “So I don’t really judge from last year’s percentage how I can shoot. I know I can shoot the ball. But if the teams keep pushing, I will continue downhill.”

But where? And for whom?

Brooklyn or bust

Brooks and Wilson – that looks like a steal with the 51stSt overall pick and his potential to be a regular part of the rotation as a 3-and-D weapon — are both two-way contracts. Power forward RaiQuan Gray had the third, but was waived after a poor showing in Las Vegas to open up a spot.

But has Chandler shown enough to get it?

It probably rests on things outside of his control, such as who else might be available.

Head Coach Trevor Hendry of the Brooklyn Nets watches during the 2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League on July 11, 2023 at The Cox Pavillion in Las Vegas, Nevada
Nets summer league coach Trevor Hendry was impressed with Kennedy Chandler’s willingness to shoot 3-pointers, which Hendry added was “the one thing holding him back.”
NBAE via Getty Images

For Chandler, the Nets’ past success in turning D’Angelo Russell into an All-Star and Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris from bounce-backs to well-paid viable starters is one heck of a selling point. But could he follow a similar trajectory by signing directly with G League Long Island instead of Brooklyn? Or get an offer elsewhere?

At this point, is there anything else Chandler can show general manager Sean Marks, either positive or negative? Or is it about what else is out there on the market this summer?

“I mean, I’m not sure,” Hendry said. “I think it’s out of our control.”

And currently out of Chandler’s.

Leave a Comment