USA TODAY Sports
As as the NBA Draft moved towards the end of the first round last June, the word around the Prudential Center had Tyshawn Taylor headed to the Bulls at #29. The 6'3" Jersey guy was a virtual lock, according to reports out of Chicago. Then, the Bulls surprised war rooms around the NBA by taking Marquis Teague, the Kentucky freshman who Taylor had scored 19 against in the NCAA Final.
What followed shows the value of having an owner who's willing to spend and management willing to take a risk.
The second round began. A couple of international players, a 27-year-old, and some other lesser lights were taken. Taylor was at a Hoboken restaurant with family and friends and with each pick, his anxiety mounted. He saw players who he had outplayed at Kansas go ahead of him.
In East Rutherford, the Nets saw an opportunity. They had Taylor ranked as a first rounder. Despite his record as a winner --state and national high school championships, the FIBA Under-19 world championship, four Big 12 championships and a trip to the NCAA Finals-- Taylor's stock had been hurt by two suspensions at Kansas, a reputation for erratic if talented play and his age. He was 22.
"We liked him. On our board he was pretty high,'' King said afterward. "With his pedigree and the big games he's played, we felt he'd be good. We had him ranked high, and once we saw him starting to slide, we started maneuvering to get there.''
The maneuvering ended when the Trail Blazers agreed to sell their pick. They had already used the Nets first round pick to take Damian Lillard, now their starting point guard, at #6. The price for Taylor was steep. The Blazers owned the two picks at #40 and #41 and wanted $2 million for the second one. In the 2011 Draft, the Knicks spent a third of that --$750,000-- to purchase the 45th pick so they could take Josh Harrellson. The Nets Russian ownership didn't blink and Brooklyn had its first draft pick. Within short order, the Blazers picked Taylor and Andy Katz of ESPN announced the deal to a cheering if tired group of Nets fans at The Rock.
In Hoboken, Taylor hugged his mother when he was told he was being drafted, then jumped when he realized he was going to Brooklyn, not Portland. He decided that #41, where he was picked in the draft, would be his uniform number. Nothing like a little motivation. And the Nets weren't done spending. They later paid the Sixers $750,000 for the rights to Toko Shengelia, taken at #54.
The financial commitment did not end there. As a second round pick, Taylor was now owed anything, but the Nets decided to give him a guaranteed two-year deal total more than a million dollars. That way, even though the payroll was skyrocketing they knew he would be back and his development could be stretched out over two years. The same with Shengelia.
“As (former St. Anthony and Duke star) Bobby Hurley tweeted out — and I think it’s true — his best basketball’s ahead of him,” King said of Taylor.