The Nets aren't in the draft ... yet, but Billy King believes that the team can acquire a pick if they feel the need to. The Nets are a year removed from making a blockbuster draft day trade, and picking up a top five rookie in Mason Plumlee.
They have an even $2 million available to buy a pick--after sending $1.2 million to New Orleans along with Tyshawn Taylor. That's not going to get them a first rounder but could get them a single second rounder in the late 30's or 40's or two second rounders later in the draft. King has proven that he isn't afraid to make a move on Draft Day, and he's likely to live up to his reputation.
The team has interviewed players already. Shabazz Napier, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Spencer Dinwiddle, and Deonte Burton are prospects that the Nets have spoken to, publicly, but the team could have spoken to others. Several representatives were in Chicago at the Draft Combine last week and still others were in L.A. this week for prospects workouts set up by different agents.
As for teams that could be looking to sell towards the back of the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers come to mind. Philly has five, yes five, picks in the second round this year along with two lottery picks. NO team is going to bring in that many rookies. Some are bound to be for sale, and probably not for an alarmingly high price. Minnesota and Milwaukee have three each.
If the Nets are bystanders in this year's draft, their division foes won't. The Sixers, as noted, have seven total picks, the Celtics have two picks, one at #6, the other at #17 (the Nets pick that they acquired in last year's deal), and the Raptors have three, one in the first at #20, the others at #37 and %59.
The Sixers, in fact, have an opportunity to get one of the three-top prospects in this draft with one of the Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Jabari Parker trio available at #3, then picking again at #10. Philly may have to wait for those picks to mature and Nerlens Noel, out all last year, to get back on the court before they improve but they are unlikely to be the second-worst team in all of basketball, as they were last season.
Boston was talent deprived last season after they unloaded a group of their core players to Brooklyn, so they could be back to somewhat competitive levels in 2015 depending on they do with two first round picks. The Celtics have solid, young players already, but they could use some players who can make serious contributions immediately.
Assuming they don't trade the sixth pick for Kevin Love, Noah Vonleh can be a nice fit. With his length at power forward, he could grow into a role with Boston. The team can go for the best player on the board at #17 since they have a number of needs. Those two picks could make the likes of Avery Bradley and Jeff Green available too.
Toronto had some classic regular season games with the Nets, and of course the playoffs. The Nets did dethrone the Atlantic Division champs in the first round, but this team is on the rise and can utilize their number #20 and #37 picks to continue to build ... or move up. Draft Express has them taking freak Michigan State athlete Adreian Payne at #20, then at #37 going after European big man Artem Klimenko. We previewed Klimenko here. Klimenko could be stashed away overseas and come to Toronto in a year or two to help the Raptors in the frontcourt. Or he could be a trade piece. They are a bit thin at center right now.
The Knicks, like the Nets, have no first or second round picks, but like the Nets, picked well late last year (Tim Hardaway Jr.) and want to get into the draft. They have $3.2 million to play with.
Draft Sleeper of the Week: Isaiah Austin
If Jason Kidd wants to pursue small-ball, then this is the perfect candidate. Austin is a seven-footer in shoes and had the best standing reach of all the prospects in Chicago at the Draft Combine, posting a 9'4.5" reach. Austin is still young and raw at 20 years old. He also only weighs 220 pounds despite his long frame, so putting on weight will be a key point that the team that drafts him makes.
But the larger problem is this: Austin is legally blind. He tore the retina in his right eye in middle school. Four times, he would undergo surgery to restore his vision. After each, his vision would return for a while, then disappear again. Despite all that, he has been able to compensate throughout high school and at Baylor.
He does have a touch from the mid-range area despite the disability. Nearly 25% of his shots in the half-court offense were jumpers, which could make him a prime pick-and-pop option off the bench, something Mason Plumlee can't do, at least as of now.. Austin isn't a great finisher around the rim, but if he were to be a small-ball center with the Nets, he can shy away from the paint and get his shots from the outside. However, there is no denying that he needs to put on weight and lower body strength so he is capable at finishing in the restricted area in the future.
The sophomore's incredible reach did make him an elite shot blocker last season. Austin blocked twice as many shots per-40 minutes compared to his freshman season and also ranked in the top 15 this past season nationally per-40 minutes. Austin did develop as a help defender and shot blocker, so his rebounding numbers hovered around five this season.
His youth, ability to grow as a defender while also filling out his frame makes Austin one of the most intriguing prospects in this year's class. If the Nets can acquire a pick to select him, he can be a perfect role player with Brooklyn due to his ability to stretch the floor and to grow with the roster.
Draft Express has him going 35 to the Utah Jazz in their latest mock, which could be a pick the Nets pursue. Others aren't as high on Austin. NBADraft.Net has the Baylor big going 56 to the Denver Nuggets in their most recent mock. Tyler Lashbrook's most recent big board ranks Austin as the 53 best prospect in the draft.
Here is DX's video breakdown on Austin:
With the Nets are more "around" the draft than "in" it, we're going to keep track as if the Nets had a pick. I have my own mock draft, which you can check it out here. To stimulate some conversations, feel free to comment your picks or state your argument on why the Nets should try and trade into the draft to get Player X.