The Brooklyn Nets are 2-10, and though they’ve competed in a few close games recently, are on track to end up in the lottery this season. But the reward that usually couples that ignominy — a high draft pick in the NBA Draft — is long gone, shipped to the Boston Celtics over two years ago as part of a package for Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce.
The Celtics legends have both since traveled west, but Brooklyn’s draft pick sticks up north. Nets coach Lionel Hollins, who would surely like a crack at coaching another top young prospect, says the lack of a pick doesn’t bother him.
“I rarely think about that,” Hollins said Friday night in Boston’s TD Garden when asked about the lost pick. “I do. I think more importantly is what we do daily, the foundation that we lay.”
Celtics fans on social media certainly have kept it in mind.
Hollins knew exactly the example that would assuage Boston media. “There’s always second-round picks that are bought. There’s always second-round picks that are traded. There’s free agency. There’s players — I look at (Celtics guard) Isaiah Thomas, he was the last player taken in the draft. He’s become a star.”
Thomas indeed was the last player selected in the second round, and has blossomed in Boston. The fifth-year guard is averaging 20.8 points and 6.3 assists in 30.5 minutes per game this season, and would lead the Nets in points per game.
The Nets have a glaring lack of picks unlike any team in the NBA. The team does not control the rights to a draft pick until 2019, first or second round, circumventing the NBA’s rule against trading first-round picks in consecutive years by engineering pick swaps in 2015 and 2017. They drafted the injured Chris McCullough with the 29th pick this past year, after swapping the 15th pick with the 60-win Atlanta Hawks.
The Nets have made multiple moves on draft night in the past few seasons, such as acquiring 23rd overall pick Rondae Hollis-Jefferson this past year. Hollis-Jefferson is now in Hollins’s starting lineup.
“How high you draft and how many first-round picks you have doesn’t necessarily mean success,” Hollins added. “It’s how you choose people that you put on your time and where you find players and how they develop and whether there are players. That’s key. For me, as a coach, my challenge is to lay a foundation of how we’re going to play and get the guys to do it every night.”