It's a Whole New Game on Draft Night with Billy King Picking as Nets GM

You know what they say in the stock market..."Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results".  Well, considering that this month, Billy King talked about how he sees Draft Night like others see a Wall Street trading floor with lots of moving pieces and quick decisions, it's an appropriate metaphor.

This will be, of course, Billy King's first draft as Nets GM, so we thought we'd review his past performance in Philadelphia and examine as well how the Nets situation, including Mikhail Prokhorov's wealth and desire to win, might change things from what went on in the past...hopefully for the better.  So using NetsDaily's vast research capabilities, we look back in hopes of getting a sense of what will happen Thursday night. Some of this we've reported before but it's more relevant now.

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, starting with taking Larry Hughes over Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce in 1998, 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 this spring, 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 each...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 fact) 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 entice 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 (probably $3 million), 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 spending much of the year in Tulsa.)

The Nets start off the 2011 Draft with the 27th (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.  Or they could add the Rockets' lottery-protected 2012 pick.

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. But King also pointed out recently that with a bad draft, some teams may not be willing to pay top dollar, i.e. $3 million, for a late first round pick.

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 and probably all five, 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 and the Blazers this month renounced the rights to Koponen, once considered a top European point guard bound for the NBA.

–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 Koponen. 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, Jim Dolan of the Knicks spent $3 million in 2009 to buy the 29th pick from the Lakers so New York could take Toney Douglas.  Micky Arison of  the Heat paid $1.2 million to the to those same Lakers in that same draft for the #42  pick in the second round so Miami could pick Patrick Beverley. (In both cases, a future second round pick went along with the cash.)

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. (After all, that draft yielded the following post-Planinic: Travis Outlaw, Carlos Delfino, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, Jason Kapono, Bill Walton, Steve Blake and Mo Williams.) Will King guarantee?

International Draft Deficit

One area where the Draft is strong this year --and one area where King did not do well in Philly-- is overseas picks.

Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently listed who the 76ers took in recent years.  While she doesn't mention who took them, they were all taken on King's watch.

The Sixers' overseas draftees include Marko Milic, Jiri Welsch, Paccelis Morlende, Petteri Koponen, and Kyrylo Fesenko. In the 2006 draft, the Sixers selected Thabo Sefolosha with the No. 13 pick -- Sefolosha currently starts for the Oklahoma City Thunder -- but immediately traded his rights to the Chicago Bulls for Rodney Carney.

The Sixers' international drafting record is about as impressive as a Ford Pinto. That is to say, it's not at all impressive.

Not good indeed. The 76ers international scout during that period was Danko Cvjeticanin, a Croatian who starred with Drazen Petrovic on that nation's (and Yugoslavia's) great teams in the 1980's and 1990's. Cvjeticanin is now the Nets'  international scout, having been brought in by King on arrival last July.  He's one of nine scouts on the roster.  We wish Cvjeticanin better luck with the Nets.  Mikhail Prokhorov will demand it.

Bottom Line

It's always possible the Nets will be conservative and pick at #27 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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