If the Nets buy a pick (or two as they did last year) it's almost certainly going to be a development play, that is a European or other international player who can be stashed overseas and allowed to develop. That's what happened with Bojan Bogdanovic in 2011 and what was supposed to happen with Toko Shengelia last year. It was no accident.
The roster math alone, with so few openings to fill, would suggest that. A big difference from last year. Beyond that, it's part of a bigger strategy: Finding ways to maximize value in roster spots not occupied by big contract player. (It's a big reason, as noted before, for their disappointment with Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo.)
Ownership and management made a strategic decision to pay their top players big bucks going into Brooklyn... and use the draft, the Euro-Stash, the mini-MLE, other exceptions, the Armor, amnesty, vets minimums, whatever to fill out the roster with "good pieces," as one insider put it. They think it's the only way to make their strategy work. Indeed the franchise's default decision is: if there's value anywhere in those secondary markets, they're likely to make a deal for the sake of development.
Here's how that could work on Draft Night ... and how their strategy can mesh with that of another team with different goals.
A quick look at the the second round shows Portland with three picks at 39, 40 and 45. The Trail Blazers might use one of them but its unlikely they'll use all three. It's possible they'll combine them to move up, but who's going to be interested in three second rounders? In a marginal draft? More likely, the Blazers, who already have a young roster, see the picks as a financial asset.
Indeed, the Nets paid the Blazers $2 million last June to buy the 41st pick so they could take Tyshawn Taylor. It worked out well for both sides. The Nets had projected that the Kansas point guard would go late in the first round and saw him as a sleeper, a player they could develop. Although the Blazers are not a cash-strapped team, that $2 million helped their bottom line.
One league source suggested that the payment would have covered most of the Blazers summer costs, including the cost of summer league. Players not under contract to an NBA team still get paid for summer league. The money doesn't go against the salary cap but it does come out of the team's bank account. There's also travel costs, etc.
That $2 million however did seem a bit high, but last year's draft was stronger and each year the market can change. In 2011, the Knicks bought the 45th pick from New Orleans for $750,000 so they could take Josh Harrellson of Kentucky. The Nets also paid the 76ers $750,000 for the 54th pick last year so they could take Shengelia, also a bit high historically. (They were prepared to pay the Lakers $250,000 for the 60th pick as well, part of the Terrence Williams - Sasha Vujacic deal, but L.A. declined.)
Of course, because this draft is seen as marginal, they may decline to buy a pick. Key to that decision is likely to be the scouting reports prepared by the Nets international scout, Danko Cvjeticanin. Cvjeticanin, a two time Olympic silver medalist from Croatia, travels the continent to catch a look at prospects from Spain to Russia. He pushed hard for the Nets to buy the picks needed to take Bogdanovic and Shengelia. Who's he like this year? No idea. It's pretty much a state secret.
And they may not make a decision on what to do, what team to call, who to take until the second round opens and Adam Silver makes his way to the podium at Barclays Center. This draft could be that fluid.