There has been a lot of debate on NetsDaily in recent weeks, of whether or not Billy King should be fired, and how bad of a trade the Gerald Wallace deal was for the franchise. The past 18 months has been hard for Nets fans. It seems if the Nets didn't have bad luck, they'd have no luck at all. But, have the Nets really set the franchise back, by chasing superstars and not building through the draft? I've heard a lot of folks on NetsDaily, ESPN, and other blogs, show some real passion against the moves of Nets management. I thought it was worth examining more closely. Reviewing what has happened, what could be, and what could have been. It's worth examining whether or not building through the draft is a "better" approach to success.
DRAFT vs ACQUISITION MANAGEMENT
Personally I don't subscribe to the notion that draft picks result in championships. Sure, they can. The Spurs dynasty shows this. OKC appears destined arrive any year now. Chicago, outside of Boozer is a home made roster. But, Miami, Boston, the Dallas Mavericks and the LA Lakers have all taken a different, yet successful, approach in their championship pursuits. There are multiple ways to win in the NBA. So which is better?
OPTION A: ACQUISITION MANAGEMENT
The Boston Celtics had draft picks and young players. Al Jefferson was Brook Lopez when Brook Lopez was in HS. They traded a top 5 draft pick for Ray Allen. They traded another few picks and Al Jefferson for Kevin Garnett. They drafted Rondo late, and had Paul Pierce in the fold and the rest was history. Pierce at the time was a top 15-20 player, not elite, but solid. With just him and Al Jefferson, Boston was bad enough for the 5th pick.
The Dallas Mavericks, also built a team. Solid role players built around Dirk Nowitzki.
The Lakers traded for Gasol and acquired Odom.
The Heat...Shaq before the LeBron and Bosh.
The NEW JERSEY NETS...remember the Jason Kidd years? Those were fun. I would go back to those years in a minute. Was that a failed strategy? We were competitive.
Finding teams that have crashed and burned at this tactic, are teams like the New York Knicks, Cleveland and Orlando. But even they had stars like Dwight Howard and Lebron to build around and were competitive.
OPTION B: THE DRAFT
In the draft you have to get lucky. If you don't believe this, maybe you should note that the NBA is the only "professional" sport that has a lottery to decide who get's which pick. The lottery alone, forces luck into the equation. Drafting smart matters, but let's be real. LeBron James is a lot different than Carmelo Anthony, and everyone knew who was going number 1. This is true most years. So luck, plays a major factor in the draft. Greg Oden, if he had stayed healthy, might be a better pick than Kevin Durant. Sam Bowie, might have been a better pick than Michael Jordan. Luck matters. Teams that have been building through the draft include the Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trailblazers, and Golden State Warriors.
While OKC has had success, you can thank a smart front office and some luck in getting Kevin Durant. The Spurs landed Tim Duncan due to an injury plagued season the year before. That was very lucky. Parker and Manu were just good pick ups. The Bulls were bad for 10 years before landing Derrick Rose. Remember the Marcus Fizer years?
So drafting doesn't make perfect. It is effective, but there is more risk in a lottery pick busting, than a known talent leaving. Look at past drafts.
- 2000 - 3 All-Stars (K-Mart no. 1, Magliore no.19, Michael Redd no. 43), 1 All-NBA player (Redd)
- 2001 - 8 All-Stars and 8 guys to never play in the NBA, 5 of the 8 All-Stars were non-lottery.
- 2002 - 4 All-Stars (3 from the top 10)
- 2003 - 8 All-Stars and 11 guys to never play in the NBA. This was the Lebron Draft with 5 of the 8 from the top 6 picks.
- 2004 - 6 All-Stars, 4 from the Top 10.
- 2005 - 6 All-Stars, and Marvin Williams. This was D-Will's draft.
- 2006 - 3 All-Stars. Shelden Williams was 5th overall.
- 2007 - Kevin Druant, Al Horford, Marc Gasol, and everyone else.
- 2008 - Derrick Rose, Westbrook, Love, and Hibbert.
- 2009 - Too Recent, but Blake Griffin and Hasheem Thabeet sum it up.
THE NETS DECISION PATH:
WHERE WE CAME FROM:
We'll start with the Summer of 20010. The Nets were coming off of a 12 win season, and had missed out on the John Wall lottery. Prokhorov had purchased the team, Avery had just been signed as the next head coach, and Rod Thorn had one foot out the door. The Nets had a bunch of cap space, and picks to play with, and Lebron James was seriously considering his options for his future. We drafted Derrick Favors. Signed Outlaw and Petro to ridiculous contracts. Signed Farmar and Morrow to decent deals. Signed Billy King and went into the 2010 season and immediately put the entire roster on the trade block for Carmelo Anthony. Trade rumors endured all season long. Kris Humphries broke out, and as we stumbled into the trade deadline, Carmelo was dealt to the Knicks. From here, Billy went to work.
OPTION A: WIN NOW! GET SUPERSTARS!
Billy traded Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, our 2011 pick, and Golden States top 7 protected pick and a little bit of Cash Money for Deron Williams in the hopes that 18 months with the NEW Nets would convince him to stay.
OPTION B: DRAFT PICKS BUILD DYNASTIES
The Nets trade Devin Harris and Kris Humphries for mid to late 1st round picks, bringing the grand total to 6, 1st rounders in two years. They start Derrick Favors before he's ready and go on to a 2nd straight season with the league's worst record.
2011 OFF SEASON:
This was a strike shortened year.
OPTION A: THE NETS ACTUAL PATH
The Nets came in with dreams of Dwight Howard and Deron Williams and made roster decisions with a WIN NOW mind set. Injuries de-railed some would be signings and the Nets were left with an injury plagued roster and a lot of holes to fill in the 2011-2012 season. Dwight ultimately flopped on the Nets at the deadline, and Billy continued with the WIN NOW mindset and traded for Gerald Wallace making the Nets weakest position their strongest, but costing the Nets their lottery pick for the 2012 draft.
OPTION B: DRAFT PICKS and SUCH
Thinking we would have gotten Gerald Green is highly questionable, given the Nets would have had an entirely different plan. But, for the sake of argument, I'll give that we would have still, for some reason tried out the D-League SF and continued with him in our future plans. The Nets would have drafted somebody. Where they would have picked is arguable, but they would not have had the number 1 pick, as the Clippers pick ultimately won the 2011 Lottery. The Nets could have finished with the worst record and landed Derrick Williams. They likely, based on need would have ended up with Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker. Also, for no reason other than speculative, I'll say they also draft Kwahni Leonard, and Marhson Brooks still.
Going into free agency the Nets would have looked as follows:
1 - BRANDON KNIGHT/Farmar/Gaines
2 - Morrow/Brooks
3 - KWAHNI LEONARD
4 - DERRICK FAVORS/Jordan Williams
5 - Brook Lopez/Petro
With our cap space, we likely sign a few players, but noone of note, because the Nets would still clearly be rebuilding, and this season would have been another losing one. Lopez still gets injured, and the Nets challenge the Bobcats for the leagues worst record. Another season of awful basketball. Favors plays much of the season at Center though, and continues to grow.
OPTION A: PRAYING FOR D-WILL
We all know the current state. It's led to much discussion. If Deron leaves, we look like an expansion team. If he stays, than Billy is absolved of his supposed sins. Our roster is in flux, and the fans are eagerly awaiting early July to see how this star driven journey plays out. Dwight is a distant possibility. Deron is a coin flip. And the Nets are in critical condition moving into a new building with a new identity.
OPTION B: WHERE WE'D HAVE BEEN WITH THOSE DRAFT PICKS
Would we have landed Anthony Davis? Who knows. For the sake of argument, lets say we didn't. I think we would have challenged the Bobcats for historically the worst season ever. We'll say for the sake of argument that we end up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Nets Roster as of Free Agency 2012
1 - BRANDON KIGHT/Farmar
2 - Morrow/Brooks
3 - MKG/Green/LEONARD
4 - FAVORS/Williams
5 - Lopez/Petro
This team, with cap space to go after a bunch of players that don't want to be a part of a losing organization with 3 straight seasons of historically bad basketball. Now could this team compete in a few years. Yes. Two Years down the road, this could be a really good team. It could also be a team still looking for answers, just barely contending for an 8th seed. We don't know how MKG's game translates in the NBA. We don't know the Brooks continues to develop. Or that Lopez ever becomes an average rebounder. We don't know the player Favors is going to be, and one series of injuries, completely de-rails the plan. Look at Portland. The Thunder traded Ray Allen back in 2007. Five years later, they are one of the NBA's best teams, with some good luck (Durant), and some smart moves (Perkins). But, it can go the other way too.
MORAL OF THE STORY
The moral of the story is keep the faith. We have a management team hell bent on winning. We have a 50-50 chance at one of the NBA's premier talents, and the mood around the league in regards to the Nets has shifted with the aggressive moves, and the new arena. The Nets are a team to consider and are players for some of the biggest names in the game. This could go poorly, but as frustrating as that would be, it's really just a matter of time. We have flexibility, and we've shown we're willing to make big moves to win now. The moves have been smart. Chad Ford may be great at NBA2K12, but he knows nothing about running an NBA franchise. Keep the faith Nets fans. D-Will is going to do what's best for him. But going after him, was the right move for our franchise. Pushing to build a winner with reckless abandon, is going to pay off. It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. Next year we could have a line up with D-Will and Dwight Howard headlining. Or we could be back to drawing board. One way or the other, this team has shown that it's going to win at all costs. Draft picks could have worked out, or they could have flopped. The D-Will Experiment may succeed or fail. Time will tell. But with a deep look at the draft and what could have been. I'm not disappointed in Billy King for making the bold move.