Just before the NBA Draft Lottery results were unveiled, ESPN’s Heather Cox asked Nets representative Irina Pavlova what the move to Brooklyn meant for the franchise.
“It will be a true renaissance,” said Pavlova.
That was before the Nets worst nightmare became a reality as NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver unveiled the team had drawn the No. 6 overall pick.
By the fate of four ping-pong balls the “renaissance” Pavlova alluded to, would be off to a rough start in the Nets inaugural season in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.
The Nets had left the NBA Draft Lottery as losers without a high lottery selection, one less major trade chip to use in a potential Dwight Howard trade, and a step closer to losing Deron Williams.
The Nets lost their potential lottery draft pick as part of a trade deadline deal made last season by general manager Billy King. In the deal, King acquired Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trail Blazers for a top-three protected conditional draft pick, the expiring contract of Mehmet Okur and Shawne Williams.
Without a top lottery selection, the Nets lose arguably their greatest advantage in any potential Howard deal.
Orlando is ideally seeking young talent or proven veterans in their prime, along with salary cap relief from Hedo Turkolgu’s contract and draft picks.
Now the Nets must build a deal around Brook Lopez, whom Orlando is lukewarm on at best. MarShon Brooks and Anthony Morrow could also be used as trade bait, but Orlando is not known to strongly covet either player. In addition, they must take on Turkoglu’s contract with a remaining two years and roughly $24 million. This makes the chances of Howard coming to Brooklyn slim unless a third team is involved.
With no guarantee of a deal for Howard, it could also spell the end of Williams with the Nets. Williams has publicly expressed a desire to play with Howard. While Williams has denied the “Howard or bust” reports regarding a return to the Nets on his Twitter page, there’s no question he won’t have a ton of patience for a team no closer to competing in the playoffs.
Williams has been a prime target of the Mavericks ever since the team let Tyson Chandler go to preserve cap space for this summer. Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban can offer Williams a fellow superstar to pair with on the pick-and-roll in Dirk Nowitzki and cap space to build around them.
King and Avery Johnson have acknowledged the threat of Dallas and the possibility of a hometown reunion for Williams, but both remain confident that Williams will help the team open the Barlcays Center as the face of the franchise.
After the NBA Draft Lottery King and the Nets posted a video message on Twitter to the team’s fans with bold claims.
“We’ll do everything we can,” said King. We’re going to re-sign Gerald Wallace, re-sign Deron Williams, and we’ve got a lot of scenarios where we’ll add veteran players. Our goal next year is to never be back here… We want to be playing in the playoffs. We’re going to do everything in our power to get us there so hang in and be patient and stick with us because we’re going to do everything we can to bring a winner to Brooklyn.”
The Nets free agent list is long and filled with question marks. Williams will opt-out of his near $18 million player option and become the biggest free agent on the market this summer. No one, not even Williams, knows what team he’s leaning towards.
Sources say Wallace will also opt-out of his $9.5 million player option. Kris Humphries will hit the market as one of the top unrestricted free agent power forwards. Also, NBA D-League call-up sensation Gerald Green is an unrestricted free agent.
While King publicly stated his intent to keep Williams and Wallace after the draft lottery, he offered no assurances to Humphries in an interview with YES Network broadcaster Ian Eagle.
“Kris Humphries is going to be a free agent. That’s probably going to be the position we’ve got to focus in on because we’ll have Brook (Lopez) under contract, we have the right of first refusal, so we’ll be able to re-sign him (Lopez),” said King.
In retrospect, NBA Draft Lottery was a failure for the Nets. Instead of hitting the jackpot and coming closer to pairing Williams and Howard the team could be headed to Brooklyn empty handed.