So the lottery is over, the first step in a long offseason is done, and the Nets are exactly where we thought they would be: no closer to a young, upcoming team, no closer to a superstar team with Deron and Dwight, and no closer to a playoff spot.
After Nets GM Billy King pulled the trigger on the Gerald Wallace trade in mid-March, this is exactly where the odds said that we would end up. And yet why are we so disappointed? Because we are now the Brooklyn Nets, not the New Jersey Nets of old. We thought that is would all be different now that Jersey is behind us, but it is still all the same. No center of the future, no center of the present, and maybe not even our own star point guard. Why did we think it would all be different once the Nets moved to Brooklyn? Because of the hope for a new beginning: a new roster, a passionate coach, a savvy GM, and a billionaire owner. The Nets have never had any of these pieces before and they’ve never shown such a will to win. Everything suggests that the Nets should be successful, but it is looking more and more likely that they will have the same team of inexperienced players and veteran cast-aways that they have had each of the last 5 seasons and again not even come close to a playoff spot.
The Nets franchise has always been full of disappointment, but leading into the announcement of the #6 pick, everything seemed like it would finally change. Let’s review what went on last night on ESPN, starting at 8:00 PM:
The lottery show opens with a roundtable of NBA “experts”: Chris Broussard, Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson, and others. Of course the lottery does not actually begin at 8. First, ESPN has to rot our brains with more talk about the top prospects, reviewing the rules of the lottery, and other unnecessary and boring programming for the real basketball fans. Finally, as the NBA roundtable is winding down, the “experts” give their predictions on where the #1 selection will land. I was hoping nobody would jinx the pick and say “Brooklyn”. Somehow, I was right, even though many in the past, including Charles Barkley, had predicted that Brooklyn would win the top pick. I heard a bunch of “Charlotte”, a little bit of “Washington”, and even a crazy “Phoenix” prediction, but no “Brooklyn”.
Ok, everything looks good so far. Then, at the commercial break, one of the longest commercials I can remember, my dad tells me that he has a feeling that the Nets are going to finally get lucky and win the #1 pick. For some reason, I have the same feeling too, even though I know it’s pretty crazy and I would be very happy with any top-3 selection. The draft show eventually comes back on with some woman introducing all the representatives from the teams. For most of the teams, she just says the representative’s name and position with the team. However, with the Nets, she stops at Irina Pavlova, Prokhorov’s right-hand man in America, and asks here a question about the Nets. I don’t remember her answer, but at the end she said something in Russian to Mikhail Prokhorov that nobody understood. I took this as a good sign and this again reinforced my feeling that the Nets would win the lottery.
After another torturous commercial break, the program comes back on with NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver holding the cards of the teams in his hand. Then, everything begins moving way too quickly for me to follow and my mind starts racing. Silver announces the names of the teams one right after the other and I struggle to keep up. By the 9th pick, there have not been any surprises and I really begin paying attention because this is the first pick the Nets have a chance at getting. “Detroit Pistons”. Ok good. It would have been pretty funny if the Nets had gotten this pick because that would just make Portland mad. But I’m still glad that Brooklyn was not called. “Toronto Raptors.” Excellent. “Golden State Warriors.” Wow I really thought the Nets were going to get called there. We only need one more name to be called and then the Nets get to keep their pick!! And isn’t there only a 41% chance the Nets actually pick 6th?!? Oh my god, the Nets are going to be in the top 3!!! “Brooklyn Nets.” …………………………..
That is all in the past and now Billy King and the Nets will have to move on. Following the lottery, Billy King said in an interview which you can see here that he is not worried and he was planning for the worst. He has played out all the scenarios and has a strategy for the one that occurred: no first round selection. King seems confident that it will all work out and he thinks that the Nets will be back in the playoffs next year. He thinks that the Nets will resign Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams, along with other free agents, and he thinks that the Nets will be able to make trades to bring good veterans to Brooklyn.
But why should we believe him? The Nets have struck out in consecutive seasons at bringing a big name free agent to New Jersey. That is even more surprising because the Nets had one of the premiere point guards in Deron Williams. Chris Paul was able to bring free agents like Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, and Kenyon Martin to a franchise that is arguably worse than the Nets. And all Deron brought in was Deshawn Stevenson and Shelden Williams. So why should Nets fans “hang in there and be patient”? What moves can Billy King make that can end the losing and return the Nets to the playoffs?
My initial thought was to just throw everybody away and start over. Let Deron Williams walk to Dallas, let Gerald Wallace sign with another team, and start building from the draft. This is the way Oklahoma City and San Antonio have built their franchises, and they have been the best two teams in basketball this year. In this scenario, the Nets will resign Brook Lopez, and begin building a core around him, Marshon, and a very high draft selection next year. Even though this may seem like the right way to go about things, I don’t think this is the right move for the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets have already walked too far down the “superstar” path, and I think it’s too late to turn back now. They need to do everything in their power to get Dwight Howard because this is the only way the Nets can dig themselves out of their hole. Having a top-3 pick would have been the easy way to get Dwight, but now it will have to be done the hard, risky way: give Orlando whatever they want and get Dwight in whatever way possible. Give them the right to sign Brook Lopez, who is a restricted free agent. Give them a young, possibly future all-star in Marshon Brooks. Give them one of the best shooters in the NBA, Anthony Morrow. Give them a 2013 first round pick if they want it. Heck, give them Petro if the Magic ask for him! Whatever the Magic demand, the Nets must give.
Of course, if Howard’s back never fully heals and he isn’t the Superman that we have come to know and love (at times), this will go down as one of the worst trades in history. But, if it works out, the Nets could have a pretty exciting team come November in Brooklyn. If Dwight is landed, one would have to assume that Deron Williams would resign with the Nets. However, they would have literally nothing else: no players and no draft picks in 2013. But this might not be a problem. If the Nets have arguably the best point guard and the best center in the NBA, and they play in the newest, hippest arena, what free agent wouldn’t want to come to Brooklyn. I’m not sure how many of those free agents they would be able to sign with the salary cap, but they would definitely be able to build a playoff team for next season, and maybe a championship team down the line.
But what happens if another team outbids the Nets for the right to Dwight Howard next season? Some teams that are interested are the Lakers, who could give up Gasol or Bynum, the Rockets, who have wanted a center for years, and the Mavericks, who will use Howard to try to lure Deron Williams. Even a team like the Wizards could make a trade for Dwight by trading the third pick in the draft. All of these teams can arguably give Orlando more than the Nets. So where do the Nets go if they can’t land Dwight? The answer really is nowhere. The odds of keeping Deron Williams are virtually 0. Gerald Wallace would not want to resign with a team that is destined for the lottery again next year. Billy King has made draft day trades in the past, but who on his roster now is valuable? Marshon Brooks is worth at most a mid-late first round pick, and that will not convince Deron to stay. The only thing the Nets could do would be start rebuilding from scratch.
So, as you can probably tell, I don’t have a great attitude on the future of the Nets, and I don’t really feel like “being patient” and waiting for the Nets to “bring a winner to Brooklyn”. My message to Mikhail Prokhorov, Billy King, and Avery Johnson is: prove me wrong. Prove to me that you are capable of making a trade for Dwight Howard and resigning Deron Williams. Prove to me that you can bring in veteran free agents who can bring hype and excitement to Brooklyn. Prove to me that the Nets can be winners. Until then, start planning your NBA Draft Lottery party for 2013. I’ll bring the popcorn.