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What Direction Will the Nets Take in the Draft?

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In a recent audiochat, the Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro noted that by now, Ed Stefanski and Rod Thorn probably have a "short list" of draft propects, no more than 12 to 15 players for the three picks the Net have in this June's draft, two firsts and a second. That list, he notes, is closely guarded since the Nets don't want the competition to know who they are looking at, for fear that another team could come in and scoop up the Nets prize with an earlier pick.

So who might be on the list? At this point, it gets easier to figure out, considering the college tournaments are over, Stefanski has returned from his latest overseas scouting trip, he and Thorn just finished scouting the Portsmouth Invitational and most draft positions are solidified. Three draft websites devoted to the NBA draft try to refine the game, but have to admit that they engage in little more than informed speculation.

Still, the three mock drafts out this week offer a rare consensus of who the Nets may take. Three players--Rudy Fernandez, a 6'6" guard from Spain, Guillermo Diaz, a 6'2" guard from the University of Miami, and Vladimir Veremeenko, a 6'11" power forward from Russia--are listed on two of three mocks as good choices for New Jersey.

Here's their breakdowns of how the websites think the draft could go for the Nets:

NBA Draft.net -

Rudy Fernandez, of Juventut Badalona, Spain, 6'-6" PG/SG, 21 years old.

Paul Millsap, of Louisiana Tech, 6'-7" PF, 21 years old.

Vladimir Veremeenko, of Dinamo St. Petersburg, Russia, 6'-10" PF, 21 years old.

DraftExpress -

Rudy Fernandez, of Juventut Badalona, Spain, 6'-6" PG/SG, 21 years old.

Guillermo Diaz, of University of Miami, 6'2" PG/SG, 20 years old.

Vladimir Veremeenko, of Dinamo St. Petersburg, 6-11 PF, 21 years old.

About.com -

Justin Williams, of Wyoming, 6'-10" PF/C, 21 years old.

Guillermo Diaz , of Miami, 6'2" PG, 21 years old.

Brad Newley, of Townsville [Australia] Crocodiles, 6-6 SG/SF, 21 years old.

Of the three, Fernandez, an athletic swingman who can also play the point, is listed first and foremost. A grainy video of Fernandez offers a good look at what he can do.

Of course, the Nets' picks will be determined in part by what Mile Ilic will do. The 7'2" Serbian center told Stefanski last month he wants to join the Nets next season...in spite of a buyout provision in his contract with FMP Zeleznik, his Serbian team.

And Ilic's agent, Marc Cornstein, can be a very persuasive man. He represents Nenad Krstic and Zoran Planinic as well. Keeping on good terms with him becomes increasingly important to the Nets front office. Accomodating him now could help when Krstic's contract comes up after next season.

If Ilic does come over, it is highly doubtful that the Nets will use all three picks on NBA-ready players. It's not the Nets style to carry four rookies. The Nets could of course use the two first round picks to move up or trade for an established NBA player or swap a 2006 pick for a pick in the stronger 2007 draft. Of the Nets could draft a young European player and have him play in Europe for a season or two. The Nets have done that three times in the past four years, with Krstic, Ilic and Christian Drejer. As for Drejer, the Nets 2004 selection now playing in Italy, there are increasing indications from Nets brass that he is unlikely to ever don a New Jersey uniform.