Will Draft Night 2011 Be Different?

Your bracket is broken.  Whose isn't?  (We stopped picking a few years ago after the boss' secretary won based on which team colors she liked!)  Of course, at the same time we're all making mental notes about which players might look good  in a Nets uniform come June 27.  Kenneth Faried of Newark and Morehead State? Kyle Singler of Duke?

No matter what, expect things to be different this Draft Night, the first with Billy King in charge...and the first where Mikhail Prokhorov's cash hoard might make a difference.  We take a look at what might be different, combining some old reporting with some new analysis.

Finding Late Value

Even the best GM makes mistakes in the draft, of course. Joe Dumars took Darko Milicic and Sam Presti traded Roddy Beaubois for Byron Mullens. Billy King made a few too, but a review of King's time in Philly indicates he did well when picking in the lottery, found solid NBA players at the end of the first round and discovered value deep into the second. He also signed at least one undrafted player, Raja Bell, who became a top-notch defender.

His best skill is finding value late and with the Nets having a late first rounder and an early second rounder, that's a good thing.  As one of his former players in Philly, Eric Snow, told Al Iannazzone last summer, "He’s got a great feel for the unseen."

So, let us review…it's an incomplete but telling list:

—1999: drafted Todd MacCulloch with the 47th pick.

—2000: drafted Speedy Claxton with the 20th pick.

—2001: drafted Samuel Dalembert with the 26th pick.

—2002: traded guard Speedy Claxton to the Spurs for Mark Bryant and the draft rights to John Salmons, taken with the 26th pick.

—2003: bought the Nets' second round pick, the 51st pick, and used it on Kyle Korver. Cost: $140,000; Traded the draft rights to guard Paccelis Morlende to the Sonics for the draft rights to Willie Green, taken at #41.

—2004: drafted Andre Iguodala with the 9th pick.

—2005: drafted Louis Williams with the 45th pick.

—2006: drafted guard Thabo Sefolosha (13th pick), then traded his draft rights to the Bulls for the draft rights to guard Rodney Carney.

—2007: drafted Thaddeus Young (12th overall pick), Daequan Cook (21st overall pick), then traded the draft rights to Cook, a 2009 second-round pick and cash to the Miami Heat for the draft rights to Jason Smith, taken with the 20th pick.

A GM who can find any value after #40 (MacColluch, Green, Korver and Williams...Korver and Greene in the same draft); get solid NBA talents late in the first round (Claxton, Dalembert, Salmons); and use lottery picks to get players like Iguodala and Young deserves respect.

To suggest that Iguodala and Young were no-brainers ignores what other teams around his pick wound up with.  Iguodala was taken between Rafael Araujo and Luke Jackson; Young was taken between Acie Law and Julian Wright. Same with his second round gem, Louis Williams.  Williams was taken after Roko-Leni Uric, Chris Taft, Mile Ilic and Martynas Andriuskevicius. Of all those players only Julian Wright and Law are currently under contract in the NBA.

In getting value at the places where the Nets are picking, few have a better record...and that includes the guy who hired him.  Rod Thorn after all drafted in succession, between 2003 and 2007: Zoran Planinic, Tamar Slay, Christian Drejer, Antoine Wright, Mile Ilic, Marcus Williams, Josh Boone, Hassan Adams and Sean Williams. He followed a solid 2008 draft by taking Terrence Williams.

Trader Billy

As the above listing notes, and as Iannazzone wrote last week, King is a tinkerer.  He absolutely loves to deal on Draft Night. As a Sixers' executive, King made 14 draft-day trades from 1998-2007 that involved picks.  On three Draft Nights, he made three deals...in 2002, 2006 and 2007.

In addition to the trades listed above, that got the Sixers Korver and Green for pennies on the dollar, here's what he did in Phily on Draft Night:

--Draft 1998: Traded a future first-round draft to the Jazz for the draft rights to center Nazr Mohammed...looking for a backup to Dikembe Mutombo.

--Draft 1999: Traded a future first-round pick to the Hawks for the draft rights to forward Jumaine Jones.

--Draft 2001: Traded an undisclosed amount of cash to the Clippers for a 2001 second-round pick.

--Draft 2002: Traded the draft rights to guard Jiri Welsch to the Warriors for a future first-round draft pick and a future first- or second-round draft pick; traded guard Speedy Claxton to the Spurs for forward Mark Bryant and the draft rights to guard John Salmons and forward Randy Holcomb; traded second-round picks in 2004 and 2006 for the draft rights to forward-center Efthimios Rentzias.

--Draft 2006: Traded the draft rights to guard Thabo Sefolosha to the Bulls for the draft rights to guard Rodney Carney; traded a future second-round pick and cash to the Timberwolves for the draft rights to forward Bobby Jones; traded cash to the Raptors for the draft rights to forward Edin Bavcic.

--Draft 2007: Traded the draft rights to guard Daequan Cook, a 2009 second-round pick and cash to the Heat for the draft rights to forward Jason Smith; traded the draft rights to guard Petteri Koponen to the Trail Blazers for the draft rights to forward Derrick Byars and cash; traded the draft rights to center Kyrylo Fesenko to the Jazz for the draft rights to forward Herbert Hill and future draft considerations.

Some are good, some are bad, some are meaningless.  Dumping Jiri Welsch for two picks...very good; trading Thabo Sefolosha for Rodney Carney...not so good; trading draft rights to Kyrylo Fesenko for Herbert Hill...not so good but not disastrous.

Money Talks:

The Nets have yet to buy a pick in the Prokhorov Era, but with two first round picks last June, one #3, there wasn't a big need.  But after the Nets dealt their first round pick to the Jazz in the Deron Williams trade, there were reports that the Nets would be willing to buy a pick.  That's always been a possibility. 

Over the last several years, before and after Prokhorov bought the team, the Nets have said (but only after the draft) they were willing to buy picks.  They tried to get a pick high in the 2005 second round to take Monta Ellis. They claimed in 2008 that they had been willing to buy a pick late in the first round to grab Chris Douglas-Roberts but decided to wait, hoping he'd be available at #40 and he was.  Same year, Lawrence Frank suggested they were thinking of buying a pick to take Jaycee Carroll, but didn't, signing him instead as a free agent.  And last year, there were reports that they liked Ben Uzoh and Brian Zoubek well enough to buy late second round picks, but again  waited and then used a lesser amount to provide them with partial guarantees.

Now, they have an opportunity to use some of Prokhorov's cash hoard to move up or add picks.  There are precedents. Look at what Sam Presti and the Thunder did last year.  They started Draft Night with the 18th, 21st, 26th and 52nd picks and wound up the evening with the 11th, 31st and 48th picks, through a deft series of moves that involved cash, future picks and an expiring contract. (The problem is that the product of all that maneuvering was Cole Aldrich, Tibor Pleiss and Latavious Williams...one on the bench, one in Europe and one in Tulsa.)

The Nets start off the 2011 Draft with the 26th (Lakers) and 36th (their own).  If they wanted to go higher, they could buy another pick in the 20's and package that pick, the Lakers' first rounder; their own second rounder and some more cash to go higher.

In fact, cash deals have become more common on Draft Night with things likely to get even crazier this June because of the impending lockout.

The Blazers, owned by billionaire Paul Allen, have bought first round picks on five occasions in the past seven drafts, once from the Nets. In at least four of those deals, the price tag was that $3 million max.

--On Draft Night 2004, the Blazers sent $3 million and the expiring contract of Eddie Gill to the Nets and got a Nets’ first round pick (#23 – Viktor Khryapa of Russia). The Nets then cut Gill.

–On Draft Night 2006, the Blazers sent $3 million to the Suns and got a Suns’ first round pick (#27 – Sergio Rodriguez of Spain)

–On Draft Night, 2007, the Blazers sent $3 million to the Suns and got a Suns’ first round pick. (#24 – Rudy Fernandez of Spain).

--On Draft Night 2007, the Blazers sent an undetermined amount of cash and the rights to second round pick, Derrick Byars to the 76ers and got a 76ers first round pick (#30 pick Petteri Koponen of Finland). Byars was later cut by the 76ers.

–On Draft Night, 2008, the Blazers sent $3 million in cash to the Hornets and got a Hornets’ first round pick (#27 – Darrell Arthur of Kansas). Arthur was immediately sent to the Rockets, with a smaller amount of cash, in return for draft rights to Nicolas Batum of France, taken at #25.

So at least $12 million--and probably closer to $15 million--of Allen's cash hoard was used to pick up Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum, Sergio Rodriguez (since traded) and a very good European point guard, Petteri Koponen, still stashed overseas. Khryapa was later used as filler in the Tyrus Thomas - LaMarcus Aldridge trade.

Allen isn’t the only billionaire owner who feels this way about the value of cash on Draft Night.  Here’s what Mark Cuban wrote back in 2008 defending his decision to trade two first round picks to the Nets in the Jason Kidd trade: "There are almost always teams willing to sell a pick in the 20s for 3mm dollars." Translation: I got the money. Don't worry.

Also, don't forget this: With the Nets controlling basketball operations at Springfield next season, buying a second rounder (or two) makes more sense. The Nets can work with that second rounder in Springfield rather than have him sit on the bench in Newark.

Guarantees?

Draft Day guarantees are a tricky business.  Essentially, they work like this: a GM is impressed by a player and tell the player and his agent that if the player is sitting there when the team picks at a certain position, the team will select the player.  The player in return shuts down, stops working out, sometimes feigning an injury.  The upside is that the player and agent know where they are going and the GM has a guy he likes.  The downside is that it severely limits the GM's flexibility if someone very good unexpectedly falls and he has to watch as a team picking after him catches him.  Thorn stopped giving out guarantees after promising one to Planinic and then regretting it. Will King guarantee?

Bottom Line

It's always possible the Nets will be conservative and pick at #26 and #36.  With King's record and Prokhorov's cash, that's not a likely scenario, particularly if some franchises are going to be looking to stockpile cash rather than picks...three days before a lockout.

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