The NBA Draft is usually the best day of the year. At least two trades happen every time that make you go “WHAAA?” and shake your head vigorously to get the cobwebs out. Some team trying to retain their free agent decides to draft a major player at his position, then explain why they’re doing it. Some late second-rounder emerges from the crowd when his name is selected with a thirty-person entourage and crowd-surfs his way to a bewildered Mark Tatum at the podium. It’s fantastic.
But for the Nets, it might be a little more bittersweet. For one, they should have cruised into tonight with a pick just outside the lottery at No. 15,[note]If they’d had control of the pick, they might not have tried to make a playoff push when the team was 25-38, and they’d be picking in the lottery today.[/note] but they swapped their selection with the Atlanta Hawks as part of the Joe Johnson trade. Instead they’ll pick 29th in the first round, and keep their 41st pick in the second. There’s a big gap between the top 15 and top 30 in any draft.
For two, the team is in the middle of an identity crisis. The two players they want to keep most (Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young) are free agents. The two players they’re trying to trade (Deron Williams and Joe Johnson) were the team’s two best three-point shooters last season on a team that desperately needs three-point shooting. The only member of the roster that seems destined to stick around until next year is Lionel Hollins.
But anything can happen: the NBA Draft is a wild, unpredictable beast. So, let’s do some predictions!
Here’s five things I think will happen during tonight’s NBA Draft. Remember, I know as much nothing as anyone else.
1) The Nets trade the 29th pick for DeMarcus Cousins. Just kidding.
1) The Nets trade the 29th pick. The team’s personnel has not been bullish on the talent in this draft beyond the top few players, and it’s not hard to imagine them moving aggressively to try to trade up. But Billy King has said on the record that the cost to move up has proven too high so far, and if the Nets can’t package their pick with Mason Plumlee to get into the lottery, I think it’s possible that they trade down. The 29th pick for a second-rounder and another asset (cash, a future second, a fringe player, DeMarcus Cousins) is possible, or perhaps multiple second-rounders.[note]One thought, purely speculative: what would the 29th pick plus Jarrett Jack fetch?[/note]
2) The Nets take a senior with their highest pick. Many mocks have the Nets connected to Chris McCullough, the freshman forward out of Syracuse who suffered a torn ACL and has gobs of potential and little track record. But McCullough goes against what King said he’s looking for in the draft: someone with a proven pedigree that can contribute right away. It’s possible the Nets are throwing out smokescreens, but it doesn’t seem particularly useful to do so, and the Nets have looked for older college players under Billy King’s watch.
3) The Nets end the night with more shooting than they came in with. With the team pining for Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez back, it makes sense for them to try to fill in gaps elsewhere, and the team’s poor three-point shooting (33.1% from deep, 5th-worst in the NBA) was a notorious negative in a season when two of the most prolific three-point shooting teams ever made the NBA Finals. Two shooters to watch who came through Brooklyn’s draft workouts: Anthony Brown (6’6″, 44.1% from the college 3 in his senior year) or Tyler Harvey (6’2″, led NCAA Division I in scoring and three-pointers made).
4) The Nets buy at least one second-round pick. This is just requisite at this point. They bought three second-rounders despite not being in the draft last year, and have made a habit of picking up players in the second round. My guess is that despite having the 41st pick already, they’ll pick up another, probably to draft a point guard and/or a prospect they can stash in Europe.
5) The Nets don’t trade Joe Johnson or Deron Williams — tonight. Tonight is the biggest night for NBA trades of the year. If anything, it’s a chance for NBA GM’s to flex and make moves to show they’re working the phones on the biggest night of the year. But teams generally try to make moves that show they’re looking to get younger on draft night, and absorbing a large contract isn’t the way to go.