Stein: Nets wouldn’t have taken Damian Lillard with Gerald Wallace pick

Damian Lillard, Toney Douglas
Damian Lillard (AP)

Damian Lillard (AP)
One year and one day ago, the Brooklyn Nets traded flotsam plus their 2012 first round pick (top-three protected) to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gerald Wallace. It was both lauded as a win-now move to help retain Deron Williams and a foolhardy, short-sighted decision by a franchise desperately seeking to … retain Deron Williams.

The Trail Blazers eventually ended up with the sixth pick, taking likely Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, making the trade seem somewhat uglier in hindsight. Marc Stein, in his always-informative weekend Dime, notes that since Lillard is a point guard, the Nets wouldn’t have taken him sixth, but would’ve gone in a different direction:

It’s true that the pick Brooklyn surrendered in last season’s Gerald Wallace trade became Damian Lillard, but it’s a misnomer to flatly conclude that the Nets would have wound up with the overwhelming Rookie of the Year favorite instead of Portland had they simply kept the pick. It’s believed that the Nets, if they hadn’t dealt their lottery pick for Wallace, likely would have drafted Cavs big man Tyler Zeller at No. 6, since point guard — with Deron Williams presumed to be re-signing — wasn’t a position of prime need.

Zeller, a forward out of North Carolina, eventually wound up going seventeenth. In 60 games with the Cavaliers, Zeller averages 10.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, shooting 42.3% from the field. He is, at best, a peculiar choice — he was never rumored as high as sixth in the draft, and there were numerous options for talented players should the Nets have gone away from Lillard — such as Zeller’s more talented UNC teammate Harrison Barnes (seventh overall), UConn forward/center Andre Drummond (ninth), or Zeller’s other more talented UNC teammate, forward John Henson (14th).

It also seems odd that this information would leak now, a full year after the trade and well after the draft. Even if it’s true, why make note of the idea that you would’ve made a bad draft-day decision a year later?