NetsDaily Off-Season Report #5

You can call this our Draft Lottery Preview, in which we offer positive reinforcement for those optimistic fans. The Draft Lottery will be a big deal for the franchise and here is somse reason for hope: In eight of the last 15 drafts, and in four of the last five, a team that finished with the 5th worst record or lower vaulted into overall #1. There's other history to keep you warm and fuzzy until Wednesday night.

And since we are optimistic, our Draft Sleeper is someone who could wind up in the top three. We also examine the rationale behind all those stories about the Nets pursuing young players and veterans, take a look at two of the free agents the Nets had in last week, try to figure out when the first preseason game will take place at Barclays Center, and compare Gerald Green with Dennis Horner and Jeff Foote.

Every Sunday, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off missing the playoffs, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs, tweets...plus our own reporting.

Lottery Luck

There's two ways of looking at the Nets' chances Wednesday night. Statistically, they have about 25 percent chance of getting a top three pick and keeping it away from the Trail Blazers. There's another way and that's historically. In 14 of the last 15 lotteries, every lottery but 2004, at least one team that finished fifth or worse in the regular season moved up into the top three. In five of the 15, two such teams moved up. In eight of the 15, in 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2002 and 2000, a team that finished fifth or worse vaulted into the overall #1. So there's hope.

Here's the history:

--In 2011, the Clippers pick, held by the Cavaliers, moved from seventh to first and the Nets pick, held by the Jazz, moved from fifth to third.

--In 2010, the Wizards pick moved from fifth to first and the Sixers pick moved from sixth to second.

--In 2009, the Grizzlies pick moved from sixth to second.

--In 2008, the Bulls pick moved from ninth to first.

--In 2007, the Trail Blazers pick moved from seventh to first and the Sonics pick moved from sixth to second.

--In 2006, the Raptors pick moved from fifth to first.

--In 2005, the Bucks pick moved from sixth to first and the Trail Blazers pick moved from fifh to third.

--In 2004, No pick worse than fourth made it into the top three.

--In 2003, the Grizzlies pick, held by the Pistons, moved from sixth to second.

--In 2002, the Rockets pick moved from fifth to first.

--In 2001, the Clippers pick moved from eight to second and the Hawks pick, traded to the Grizzlies on Draft Night, moved from fifth to third.

--In 2000, the Nets pick moved from seventh to first.

--In 1999, the Bobcats pick moved from 13th to third.

--In 1998, the Grizzlies pick moved from fifth to second.

--In 1997, the 76ers pick, traded to the Nets on Draft Night, moved from fifth to second.

Notes: The Nets and Kings tied for the fifth worst record this season and in a post-season draw, the Kings were awarded one more combination out of 1,000. The Hawks in 2007 would have lost its pick to the Suns if it hadn't moved into the top three. It had traded its pick, top three protected to the Suns in the Joe Johnson for Boris Diaw trade. They wound up with Al Horford.

But as they say in the stock trade, past performance is no guarantee of future results. So we wait and on Wednesday we will see.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

No one has a bigger rooting interest in the Nets' lottery chances than the Orlando Magic. If the Nets get a top three pick, they will consider the Magic's needs between the lottery and the Draft before they select. To think they won't would be naive.

If the Nets did get the overall #1 pick (and seven of the last 10 top picks went to teams with records as bad as or worse than the Nets), they might think about whether to keep Anthony Davis or trade him. We simply don't know. But what about the #2 or #3 pick? Short of Davis is there anyone out there who has potential in a Dwight Howard trade.

Please Welcome, Andre Drummond. Physically, at least, no one in the draft more resembles Howard than Drummond, a 6'10" hyper athletic center who at 19 is as pure a physical specimen as can be imagined for an NBA center. (Another way of saying if you looked up "NBA body" in the dictionary, you'd see Drummond's picture). He is also spectacularly athletic for a man so big. He was the fastest player on the UConn Huskies this season and his dunks are legendary.

The problem with Drummond is his motor, his consistent drive. In big games, he sometimes disappeared, but he may have too much potential to pass up, whether you're the Nets or the Magic front office.

Overall, reports NBADraft.net, "He's a project ,and anyone looking to draft him must remain patient. .. Maximizing his development will require the right situation, so he would be best suited in an organization with direction (not Charlotte) ... He needs tremendous polish offensively, but if he hits his stride, Drummond has arguably the highest ceiling of anyone in his class based on his rare physical attributes ... "

What's with all these rumors?

This week alone, we learned that the Nets and Andrei Kirilenko have mutual interest. the Nets and Mirza Teletovic have mutual interest, the Nets and Bojan Bogdanovic have mutual interest. The Nets and Dwight Howard...etc., etc.

It seems that no day goes by without another name being added to the list of players the Nets are interested in...and who reportedly love them back. Aside from the fact that most are versatile stretch forwards, there is a method to the madness.

If you're trying to re-sign one big ticket player (Williams) and acquire one or two more (Howard and Kirilenko or Wallace or both), you want to find "diamonds in the rough" who will not command big salaries…solid role players who are also bargains.

That's why they are being so aggressive with the D-League, Draft Combine, Free Agent Mini-Camp, international scouting, etc.

Its all part of the same strategy of building around multiple stars, but making sure you have other players who aren't going to burden your salary cap projections but will give you big minutes either off the bench or when someone goes down. There's no indication whatsoever that the philosophy that drove the Nets to pursue LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010; Carmelo Anthony in 2011; and Dwight Howard in 2012 has been abandoned. But at the same time, the Nets want to avoid what's happening with other Big Three-minded franchises...no depth.

It was no accident that Avery Johnson brought Green out on to the court during the Mini-Camp as an example of what the Nets are looking for. To be specific...

Last Chance for Thornton, Wright

"We're trying to see if there's a diamond in the rough," said Avery Johnson after Day 2 of the free agent mini-camp this week. "A lot of these guys we worked out before. eitehr in predraft situations, even if we didnt work them out, we saw in different camps. Some guys have already been in the NBA, bounced around the D-League. Sometimes it take a guy a year or two or three years, four years out of college to turn things around."

When asked who he thought could join the Nets in training camp, he joked, "If I did, I wouldn't tell you but we have two or three guys that we like."

We hear that the four former lottery picks shined at the camp, along with Jeff Foote. Adam Morrison did what he does, make shots. "He's a shot maker, a shot taker," said Johnson. Al Thornton and Julian Wright, like Morrison lottery picks, also played well, splitting time between the three and four. The Nets revealed that they looked at both players during last season when their small forwards kept coming up short or hurt.

"Thornton is in much better shape. We thought about taking a look at him during the season but it didnt quite work out. He's in really good physical shape. He's playing a little bit more above the rim. He seems to be really, fairly healthy. He's moving around really good. He's playing a little three a little four." Johnson said, his health comments apparently a reference to Thornton's undisclosed knee ailments in 2010.

Like Morrison, Thornton was honest about his failings. "[I'm just] trying to have a good opportunity to get back in the league. It's really competitive out here. So I'm enjoying it."

"What's he trying to prove?

"Just being more professional on and off the court, showing I'm serious about the game," he replied. "I never thought it was a question of my talent, just off the court issues. I just want to come in here and be a professional, a leader. You want to show the organization that you belong."

Wright too was considered by the Nets in mid-season, even good a workout, but Billy King said his conditioning back then was an issue. "We told Julian [this week] he was in better shape than when he tried out for us," said the GM.

Wright was happy with his performance as well, saying he got time time at both small and power forward as well.

"They've put me at the four and I like it because of my mismatch problems," said the 6'9" Wright. "And I was able to still possess my improved decision-making (passing), ball-handling and knocking down 19-footers and the long ball."

Isn't defending power forwards going to be a problem?

"Not too tough," Wright said, "hut I have to front if I get caught on a five. My length bothers people on most post moves." Wright has a 7'3" wingspan to go with his 6'9" height.

It would seem that if the Nets had both Thornton and Wright working out at the same positions, they're likely to pick only one for summer league or training camp. Thornton is the more experienced. Like Green, Thornton had a couple of good years before immaturity pushed him out of the league. Unlike Green, he was first team All-Rookie with the Clippers. Wright, although two plus years younger, never averaged five points a game in his four years in the NBA.

Hilton Armstrong, who played in France four days before camp, looked good as well, we're told. This is a guy Rod Thorn tried to trade for on Draft Night 2006, as Filip Bondy wrote in his 2007 book, "Tip Off". The Nets planned to send their two picks in that draft, #22 and #23, plus an unspecified third pick to Seattle for the #10 pick so they can take Armstrong. Talks were still going on as the draft began, but the Sonics backed off. They decided that a guy they wanted late wouldn't be available at #22, so they kept the #10 pick and took Mouhamed Sene out of Senegal whose length impressed them. The Nets eventually took Marcus Williams and Josh Boone, Armstrong's teammates at UConn. The player the Sonics wanted late, Shannon Brown, fell to #25.

Preseason at Barclays

Construction documents at Barclays Center have always listed October 17 as the first Nets preseason game at the arena, 15 days after the Islanders and Devils play the first major league sporting event in Brooklyn since the Dodgers left in 1957.

But that seems rather late. Take a look at the October 2010 preseason schedule. It opened on October 3 with an exhibition at Prudential Center vs. Maccabi Haifa. There were two other home games that preseason, October 7 and 9, both more than a week prior to the projected preseason opener next season. The Nets then flew to Moscow, Beijing and Shanghai before flying home for two away games on October 19 at the Garden and October 20 in Boston.

So what's going on here? First of all, the projected schedule is the work of the developer, not the NBA. That projected October 17 date been on the construction schedule for a year or so. So it probably has no relevance to the actual preseason schedule, likely to be released the first week of August.

It could possibly hint that the Nets have another preseason "world tour" planned to show off their new uniforms overseas. Possible. When he was last in New Jersey, we did ask Mikhail Prokhorov about something he talked about back in 2010, that the Nets could hold part of a future training camp in Moscow. He told us that wasn't happening. There isn't an NBA quality training facility in Russia, he said. Instead he promised he would push for regular season games in Russia ... at some point. He made no mention of preseason games. That doesn't mean the Nets won't be playing somewhere overseas in October. That would have to be in the works already.

Or it just may be that the Nets would prefer to get all the kinks out of the arena well before they run through the tunnel and on to the court for the first time as the Brooklyn Nets.

Still, there are plenty of dates prior to October 17 for that first game. After Jay-Z opens with at least one concert on September 28, the Islanders and Devils take to the ice on October 2. Barbra Streisand has two dates on October 11 and 13 and the Kings Men, a popular gospel group, plays on October 14. Then, there's nothing currently scheduled until October 22, when Rush shows up and then nothing between then and November 9, when the Barclays Center Classic, featuring Kentucky and Maryland, plays the arena.

Our bet? We expect that the first preseason home game is likely sometime between October 2 and October 11. We'd also be very surprised if there isn't some international flavor to the preseason. The Nets are supposed to be a global team after all.

Final Note

Everyone knows the greatest success, albeit indirect, of the Nets' $300,000 investment in the Springfield Armor was the discovery and signing of Gerald Green. No one wanted to sign him, thought he was a lost cause. But the Nets and Armor brain trust liked what they saw of him in the D-League Showcase in Reno and then the D-League All-Star Game in Orlando. Good for us.

This week, the Nets confirmed invitations to Dennis Horner and Jeff Foote for the summer league in Orlando six weeks from now. Not such a big deal considering Horner and Jerry Smith moved back and forth to Springfield this season and that they and JamesOn Curry were in training camp last December.

What does make it interesting and positive is the manner in which the Armor/Nets found them. Horner was found in the D-League's National Tryouts, so far the only player to go from the cattle call of the National Tryout to the NBA in a single season. He had paid $650 plus expenses to get a chance to play before D-League scouts. Milton Lee, the Armor GM, and Jordan Cohn, the Nets D-League scout, liked what they saw and picked him in the fifth round of the D-League Draft. It was a bit of a risk considering that Horner had been cut by lousy teams in Belgium and Cyprus. Foote had banged around Israel, Spain and Poland before winding up in Portland's training camp. He hadn't even been draft in the D-League. He wound up with the Hornets after they beat the Nets to a call-up.

Green is a special case, a great athlete who had lost his way and was redeemed for his hard work by the Nets. In some ways, Horner and Foote's stories are more encouraging for the Nets. They were relative nobodies (more Horner than Foote) who the Nets gave a chance to, based purely on their scouting.

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