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Billy King and his ability to turn "nothing" into "something"

Not one... not two... but three draft picks for the Nets

Brooklyn Nets

Billy King is often scrutinized for what some believe is "trading away the future" for players who he thinks can help the team win now. For example, in the trade that brought Gerald Wallace to New Jersey, King sent over a first round pick that turned out to be Damian Lillard, and fans won't ever let King forget that. Even though it’s known the Nets wouldn’t have taken Lillard with the pick, it’s still a heavily criticized move.  Then, there were the three picks sent to Boston for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

But amidst all the criticism, does Billy King get enough credit for some pretty unpredictable moves he’s made, particularly on Draft Nights? Sure the team is left with little flexibility since moving to Brooklyn, but King works the phones as well as most GM's in this league and continues to turn "nothing" into "something" on Thursday evenings late in June.

Most recently at Thursday night’s NBA Draft, the Nets entered the night with zero picks in both the first and second rounds. The first round picks was part of the price the Nets paid to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. In the second, the pick had been sent to Boston three years ago to secure MarShon Brooks rights. That left the Nets empty-handed in a draft that was hyped up to be one of the best in years.

With such a talented draft class, King and the Nets front office knew they had to get in and get picks, somehow. There was some chatter of trading Marcus Thornton and his expiring contract, along with the rights of Bojan (not Bogdan) Bogdanovic for a late first-rounder or early second-rounder. Those moves never reached fruition, however, Instead, they sent $1 million to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 44 pick in the Draft. They also sent $800,000 more to pick the 59th and 60th picks.

The Nets went on to pick Markel Brown, a talented shooting guard out of Oklahoma State who was  paired up with Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State. In his senior year at Oklahoma State, Brown averaged 17.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. As a side note, Brown finished his career at Oklahoma State with 78 blocks, which is the tenth most recorded in school history, but first overall among guards to ever play for the Cowboys.

The Nets had him a lot higher than 44th. A LOT higher.

Similar in the way they picked up the athletic Mason Plumlee late in the first round last year, the Nets took an athletic and versatile guard in Brown, who King believes can play more than one position. King said, "I look at him as a combo guard. I think you have to put your best players on the court." This could be crucial to Brown’s success in his rookie year, being that Jason Kidd likes to try out unorthodox strategies with the rotations and positions

The Nets also bought the last two picks of the draft, which turned out to be Xavier Thames and Cory Jefferson. Both players worked out at the Nets’ [soon to be former] practice facility in New Jersey, and clearly the front office liked what they saw.

Check out some more success he’s had late in the first and second rounds:

  • 2013: Mason Plumlee (1st round, 22nd pick) - Nobody could be too sure of what Plumlee was capable of in the NBA, but he certainly opened eyes in his rookie year. From the 22 pick to being ranked top five in his draft class, Plumlee averaged a little over seven points and four rebounds per game. He finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting and was selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
  • 2011: Drafted JaJuan Johnson (27) and Jordan Williams (36). On draft night, King traded Johnson’s rights for MarShon Brooks and a future second rounder for the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic. In Brooks’ rookie season, he averaged 12.6 points per game. As for Bogdanovic, he has yet to play in the NBA, but his rights may play a key role in a trade if the Nets decide to pull the trigger.
  • 2005: Drafted Louis Williams in the second round, pick number 45. Williams has averaged 11.4 points per game since entering the NBA.
  • 2003: Drafted Paccelis Morlende (50) then traded his rights and cash for Willie Green (40). Also traded cash, a mere $140,000 for the rights to Kyle Korver.
  • 2001: Drafted Sam Dalembert low in the first round (26).
  • 1999: drafted Todd MacCulloch in the mid-second round (47).

It’s definitely an impressive Draft day resume for the veteran GM, capable of finding talent late in drafts. But, it’s not the only type of magic he’s worked. He also selected Andre Iguodala at No. 9 in 2004, right between Rafael Araújo and Luke Jackson. Remember them? Of course not. Three years later, he took Thaddeus Young, right between Acie Law and Julian Wright. Same thing.

Just last season, King was able to unload Jason Terry and Reggie Evans to the Sacramento Kings for Marcus Thornton. While Terry and Evans combined for about seven points per game, Thornton averaged 12.3 points as a Net. With Thornton’s contract expiring following the 2014-2015 season, King can even use Thornton as trade bait for teams wanting to dump salary.

Moves like this made the Nets the contenders they were last season.

Even role players that may be worth more than their low salaries with the Nets, he found ways to sign them with little cap flexibility. Jason Kidd liked Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson prior to the 2013-2014 season, and despite some misgivings, King signed both for the veterans minimum, costing the Nets a little over $2 million combined.

The same goes for Andrei Kirilenko who left $10 million on the table to come to Brooklyn for the mini-MLE of $3.1 million per year. It doesn’t matter how or why it happens, but rather the fact that he made it happen, regardless of the very little cap room remaining.

Mikhail Prokhorov has put his full trust in Billy King to turn the franchise around, and thus far, he’s done a pretty good job of doing so, lost draft picks or not.

Oh yeah, and for what it’s worth -- we like the moves he makes because they keep us busy here on NetsDaily.