Lost in the lamenting over Tuesday's Draft Lottery --and the general head-shaking over the Boston trade-- is that the Nets strategy under Mikhail Prokhorov, Dmitry Razumov and Billy King was always about trading multiple, unprotected first rounders for stars, creating a championship team for Brooklyn.
It just didn't happen until Draft Night 2013.
According to various reports and conversations with principals, the Nets were willing to offer three --or four-- picks at various times during both the MeloDrama and DwightMare, their pursuit of Carmelo Anthony in 2011 and Dwight Howard in 2012. Other than proposing to send Brook Lopez to Denver and Orlando and Devin Harris to Denver, the Nets plan was always to use first round picks, rather than frontline players, to get a star or stars for Brooklyn. It was the overriding strategy.
Even the superstar deal that did go through, for Deron Williams in 2011, involved two picks and Derrick Favors, then 19 years old and barely out of the draft.
While it's difficult to pin down the precise deals ... and precise timing ... of various offers, here is what's been reported and what we've been told:
By 2011, in addition to all their own first round picks, the Nets also had first rounders from the Lakers, Rockets and Warriors ... a real cache. So with Barclays Center starting to rise rapidly at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic, they started making calls. Brooklyn needed a superteam.
In January 2011, the Nets and Nuggets, along with the Pistons, nearly reached an agreement centered on Anthony, who was unhappy in Denver. In a trade that would have been "one of the largest in league history," as ESPN called it.. Favors, Harris, Anthony Morrow and two first-round draft picks. presumably in 2011 and 2013, would have gone to Denver, while the Nets would have received Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Detroit's Rick Hamilton. The Pistons would have taken on Troy Murphy and his expiring contract along with Johan Petro.
That didn't work. Melo seemed reluctant to commit to the Nets and in January, Prokhorov made a big deal out of telling King to halt discussions Then in February, at King's urging, he permitted talks to resume.
With the Knicks in the lead, New Jersey upped the ante. The Nets would send Harris, Favors, Murphy, Ben Uzoh, and four first round draft picks to Denver, again their own in 2011, 2013 and 2015, as well as the Rockets' lottery-protected first rounder in 2013 (which later wound up in the Johnson deal and became Shane Larkin.) In return, the Nets would receive Anthony, Billups, Shelden Williams (now a Nets scout), Melvin Ely and Renaldo Balkman.
The Nets failed at the MeloDrama, then moved on the next day to trade for Deron Williams, in a much praised deal that came out of the blue. The Nets gave up Favors, the No. 3 pick in the 2010 draft, their own first-round pick in 2011 (Enes Kanter), which was not protected, and Golden State's first-round pick, which was partially protected, in 2012 and 2013. It had been obtained in a trade for Marcus Williams and became Gorgui Dieng in 2013.
That was step one in the quest for a superteam for Brooklyn. The Nets wanted to pair Howard, who wanted to come to the Nets, with his old friend, D-Will. Again, the lure was draft picks. They had plenty left.
The first deal offered to Orlando in 2011 was a three-team affair that would had the Nets send three unprotected first round picks -- in 2011, 2013 and 2015 -- to Portland for Gerald Wallace who would have been packaged along with Lopez and two other Nets picks, their own in 2017 and the Rockets 2011 pick, for Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon. The Magic rejected it, angering Howard.
There were various iterations as that season turned into the off season. Howard was still pushing the Nets to trade for him in July --after the Johnson trade -- and the Nets made a final offer of Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, unprotected first round picks in 2013, 2015 and 2017 for Howard, Jason Richardson, Duhon and Earl Clark. The Magic again rejected the Nets.
Fast forward to June 2013. The Nets had lost ignominiously to an injury-scarred Bulls team at home in the first round. Ownership and management wanted more guts to go for the glory and a trade that started out two days before the draft as Humphries and the 2016 first rounder for Paul Pierce quickly evolved on Draft Day into the monstrosity that ultimately put the Nets where they will be tomorrow ... at home. No need for details other than the Nets traded three of their (unprotected) picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 plus next year's (unprotected) swap.
There were significant differences across the board of course. Anthony was 26 at the time of the MeloDrama. Howard was 27 at the time of the Dwightmare. Paul Pierce was 35, Kevin Garnett was 37 and throw-in Jason Terry was 36. Anthony and Howard wanted out of Denver and Orlando. The Nets of 2013 had just come off a 49-win series, their first in Brooklyn. When they pursued Anthony and Howard, they were stuck in New Jersey, having gone five years without a playoff run.
But the bottom line is that for the Nets, the idea of trading picks for stars was old hat by 2013. No need for a lot of thought. Those days are gone, along with the picks.