Did someone say "surprise?" Take a look at 16 years of history below. If they pull one off, it will add to the Nets' Draft Night lure. It’s filled with wonders and blunders, like most teams, with the exception of the Spurs who never seem to screw up! And who came from the Spurs?! Hope springs eternal!
The Nets got lucky (winning the lottery at 25-1 odds) and unlucky (the worst draft in the last 20 years). Then, during workouts, Kenyon Martin collapsed after three or four plays, an indicator that he was either unhappy about the prospect of playing for the woeful Nets or his leg was still not healed after serious surgery that winter. Never mind. The Nets took him anyway, passing on Darius Miles. Whew. In the second round, they go big as well, taking Soumalia Samake, one of the team's most forgettable players (last seen toiling in China). The teeth-gritting begins here. John Nash, the Nets outgoing GM, has said then chief scout Ed Stefanski argued that night for the Nets to take an Ohio State shooting guard named Michael Redd. He was shouted down.
No one knew it at the time, but this was the day the franchise turned around. That afternoon, Thorn and Jerry Colangelo agreed in principle to trading Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury. Then, that evening, Thorn took a risk. He picked Eddie Griffin, the troubled Seton Hall star, at No. 7, believing that Carroll Dawson of the Rockets coveted him. A phone call to Houston confirmed his belief and Thorn stayed on the phone with Dawson as Houston picked Richard Jefferson (No. 13), Jason Collins (No. 18) and Brandon Armstrong (No. 23) with the first round picks traded for Griffin. Somewhere between No. 18 and No. 23, the trade was announced to loud booing at Madison Square Garden, but two of the three proved to be great picks, with Jefferson and Collins going from reliable subs in their rookie year to five-year starters for conference and division champs. But it could have been oh so perfect. Thorn has admitted he considered taking Gilbert Arenas, the 19-year-old point guard from Arizona, instead of Armstrong. His decision supposedly came after he got bad reviews on Arenas from Eddie Jordan, then assistant coach, and good reviews on Armstrong from Jerry West. Arenas became an all-Star while Armstrong has been cut by teams in the NBA, Italian League and D-League. Moreover, Dawson reportedly wanted the Nets to agree to a swap of first rounders in 2002's draft, believing the Nets would be in the lottery. Instead, the Nets won 52 games and the Rockets wound up with the overall No. 1 pick, Yao Ming. No need to be greedy. Round two yielded fan favorite Brian Scalabrine.
The year of international intrigue. The Nets had had their eyes on Nenad Krstic, an 18-year-old seven-footer from Serbia, for more than a year. They worked out shooters galore, made it appear that players like Casey Jacobsen or Flip Murray would be taken. They never worked out Krstic. Picking at No. 24, they knew that they had better not tell anyone. Stefanski in fact has said only he and Thorn knew who they were going to take. Good thing they kept it quiet. Spurs' management had let it slip to the San Antonio Express-News that they were planning to take Krstic at No. 26. The Spurs were so upset they lost Krstic that they offered the Nets a trade that night, details of which have never been revealed. Oh yeah, the Nets took Tamar Slay at No. 54. Excellent towel waver.
A top-heavy draft no doubt but the Nets knew who they wanted from the beginning: Zoran Planinic. They even gave him a guarantee that if was still on the board when they picked, he would be a Net. In return, Planinic claimed an ankle injury and shut down his workouts. He was to be the next Croatian sensation at CAA and Kidd's backup. But after a solid summer league, his lack of English skills and on-court inconsistency doomed him to first Byron Scott's then Lawrence Frank's bench. The week before the draft, Chad Ford reported that nothing is ever certain in the draft, but the closest thing to certain was the Nets' love of Planinic at No. 22. Stefanski recently told Fred Kerber that the Nets were also looking at other possibilities: Boris Diaw and Carlos Delfino. Diaw was gone one pick earlier than Planinic, Delfino three picks later. By giving Planinic that promise, the Nets had to pass on a number of players who dropped that night, including in order Carlos Delfino, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa,Josh Howard, Jason Kapono, Steve Blake, Mo Williams and Zaza Pachulia all of whom had more productive NBA careers . But picking Planinic wasn't the biggest blunder of that night. In the second round, the Nets took Kyle Korver with the 51th pick, then sold his rights to the Sixers for a pittance...$125,000. Smart move by Billy King, who was still bragging about it last year! Why'd the Nets do it? Stefanski said the Nets simply didn't have the roster space. Oh well. Part of the money, Zach Lowe later revealed, went to buy a really neat fax machine.
It doesn't get much worse than this. The team, in a cost-cutting mode, decided to sell their first round pick for $3 million. While the draft was weak, it did produce several decent players after the No. 22 pick, including Kevin Martin and Anderson Varejao. Thorn said the next day that he might have had second thoughts about the deal if J.R. Smith or Jameer Nelson had been available, but both were gone by No. 20. The Blazers took Viktor Khryapa, a 6'9" power forward from CSKA Moscow, then owned by you-know-who. Ironies abound. In the second round at No. 51, the Nets took someone DraftExpress described the next day as one of three "steals of the draft": Christian Drejer. Drejer was seen as a highly skilled 6'10" point forward who had played for Billy Donovan at Florida then ran off in mid-season to F.C. Barcelona...and a $1 million contract. His skills, however, took a back seat to his emotional fragility, winning him the nickname, "El Enigma" in Spain and "il Depresso" in Italy. No translation necessary. Nets held on to his rights for trade purposes till he retired in 2009, but after a dismal 2005 summer league audition, Nets officials said simply that he was "not in our plans". When he scored 23 points against the Raptors in an NBA exhibition game in Rome in 2007, some Nets fans wondered if he wasn't work another look. Not long after, a long balky ankle got worse and he retired from the game.
The morning of the draft, the New York Post reported the Nets had decided that if Antoine Wright was available, they would grab him at No. 15. Wright, who the Nets had never worked out, never interviewed was the consensus No. 12 pick in mock drafts. When the Raptors took Charlie Villannueva, the Lakers took Andrew Bynum and the Magic took Fran Vasquez (who?), Wright became available, as did Gerald Green and Danny Granger. Granger had had minor knee surgery before the season and showed up at his workouts with swelling in the same knee. So with the Nets being so orthopedic-centric, the choice came down to Green or Wright. There were supporters in both camps that night in the War Room, but Wright was chosen. Why not a big? Because the Nets had already booked Lawrence Frank on a flight to Atlanta three days later to recruit Shareef Abdur-Rahim, believing correctly that they could persuade him to play for the mid-level exception. What fans didn't know till 2007 was that the Nets were frantically trying to buy an early second round pick that night so they could grab Monta Ellis, the Mississippi high school product who had fallen out of the first round because of his knee problems. They failed and Golden State took him at No. 40. So the Nets settled at No. 43 on Mile Ilic, not a great consolation prize. (The Blazers initially wanted Ilic in the Abdur-Rahim deal, but the Nets said no.) Wright admitted years later that he hadn't worked hard and threw tantrums his rookie season. Like we said, the Nets had never interviewed him before drafting him.
Ever since the KMart trade in July 2004, the Nets knew they would have at least two picks in the 2006 draft, their own and the Clippers'. No picks were offered in as many trades as these two, at least according to press reports. If the Abdur-Rahim deal had gone through, the Nets' pick would have wound up in Portland. The Nets had also offered their own pick to the Bobcats in a luxury tax relief trade in February 2005 before getting a better offer from the Hornets, in the form of Boki Nachbar. Around the same time, they had offered to trade the Clipper pick back to its original owners for Chris Wilcox. No deal, said Elgin Baylor. To make matters worse, the Clippers' pick became less and less valuable as the Clippers rose in the standings. No longer would it be a lottery pick. Then, in the weeks before the draft, the team tried to move up, offering both picks to Seattle for the rights to the No. 10 pick and to the Hornets for the No. 12 pick, hoping to take Saer Sene or Hilton Armstrong of UConn. No deal again. And even as the draft was ongoing, the Nets had another offer on the table that could have effected those picks: the Bulls were offering Luol Deng and their second pick in the first round (which turned into Thabo Sefolosha) for Richard Jefferson. The Nets wanted the Bulls' first pick (which turned into Tyrus Thomas) but the Bulls said no. Finally, after two years and one night of offering the picks, the Nets settled on Marcus Williams and Josh Boone, both apparent bargains that low in the first round. But in 2016, Jay Wright, the Villanova coach, and Kyle Lowry revealed that they had a promise from Ed Stefanski, Rod Thorn's No. 2, to take Lowry with one of those picks. Stefanski broke his promise, however, saying Williams just too much of sure thing to pass on. And once they took Williams at No. 22, there was no reason to take another point guard at 23, so they chose Boone. Lowry admitted he was in a bit of panic after the Nets passed on him, but Memphis took him with the next pick. He wound up an All-Star and Olympic gold medalist. Williams and Boone wound up out of the league within four years. Like Antoine Wright the year before, the Nets never worked out Williams, never interviewed him. Williams, it's now known, was also being sought by the Raptors as the picks were called out. Hassan Adams, once thought of as a lottery pick, fell hard as well that night to No. 54, where the Nets grabbed. He didn't even last three years.
The Nets were looking for a big man, an athletic big man. They looked around at several prospects, appearing to be interested in players as diverse as Jason Smith of Colorado State, Sean Williams of Boston College, Josh McRoberts of Duke and even Glen "Big Baby" Davis of LSU, who days before the draft said he wanted to play for the Nets, that he liked Lawrence Frank! They were apparently willing to trade it, too. The day before the draft, the Charlotte Observer reported that the Nets offered their pick and Nachbar to the Bobcats for former lottery pick Sean May, but Charlotte (thankfully) turned them down. According to the Observer, the Cats while unhappy with Mayâ's conditioning and record of injuries, weren't willing to "give him away". The Nets and Pacers engaged in trade negotiations all through Draft Day, with New Jersey reportedly offering Jefferson, Collins and either Krstic or Marcus Williams for Jermaine O'Neal. By day's end, however, the talks were described as "nothing concrete" and "fizzled". Pacer GM Larry Bird called it all "bogus". In the end, the Nets settled for Sean Williams and proclaimed him Kmart-like. While the Nets interviewed Williams, he didn't undergo psychological testing. He had declined an invitation to the Pre-Draft Combine. In doing so, he avoided being measured (he was at least an inch and a half shorter than his listed height) and avoided being tested. We all know how THAT worked out. (It didn’t.)
The legend is that the Nets had no idea that Brook Lopez would fall to them, never in their wildest dreams. Uh, no. The day before the Draft, Kiki Vandeweghe told WFAN, "Brook Lopez is one of the guys you have to do due diligence on. I don't think he gets to us but you have to do due diligence because I guarantee you there will be a situation where someone will be taken and you will say, wow, why did they take him and you have to be prepared, because two minutes before pick you will get a call asking 'would you do this?' and you have to think fast." Indeed, "someone" (Larry Brown) did something that permitted the Nets to have a shot at Lopez. After the eighth pick, the Bobcats told Lopez's agent he was their pick. Then, Brown begged Michael Jordan to take a point guard instead. Lopez sat down and D.J. Augustin stood up. Who would the Nets have taken if Lopez had gone to the Bobcats? Team officials have told us it would have been Jerryd Bayless of Arizona in keeping with "best player available". Of course, the Nets traded Jefferson for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons earlier in the day and the Nets came close to two other trades the day of the draft that would have affected the pick. ESPN's Ford reported that afternoon the Nets were "deep" in negotiations with the Grizzlies to grab the No. 5 pick, offering Memphis the No. 10 and a future first round pick, presumably either theirs in 2009 or the Mavs' 2010 pick, obtained in the Kidd trade. Ford reported the Nets were interested in Kevin Love and Danilo Gallinari, both of whom they believed (correctly) would be gone before No. 10. Earlier, Ford and Adrian Wojnarowski had both reported on another proposal. The Blazers had offered the Nets a deal in which either Mo Ager (Ford) or Trenton Hassell (Woj) would go to Portland along with the No. 10 pick in return for Steve Blake or Jarrett Jack and the Blazers No. 13 and No. 33 picks. And in another permutation, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express reported it was Marcus Williams and No. 10 for Jack and No. 13. At No. 21, the Nets admit they were stuck between Ryan Anderson and at least two other players, Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts. They went with the bigger guy, tried to buy a pick to take CDR and failed, then got lucky. Who did they target at No. 40 before Douglas-Roberts fell to them. Chad Ford said they liked Damjan Rudez of Croatia, a 6'10" small forward...who didn't have such a great season in Europe the next year but wound up with Indiana in 2014. The Net also considered buying a pick to take Jaycee Caroll, the undersized shooting guard from Utah State. When that didn't work out, they invited him to the summer league where he showed a great shooting stroke. He wound up in Europe where became one of the continent’s top three-point specialists.
Before the draft, the Spurs approached the Nets with a proposal: they would take on Vince Carter's contract in return for Fabricio Oberto and Bruce Bowen (both with easy buyouts) as well as Kurt Thomas and Roger Mason Jr. They also wanted the Nets' first round pick at #11. The Nets countered by saying they would be willing to do the deal but wanted the draft rights to Tiago Splitter. The Spurs balked and turned to the Bucks and Jefferson. As the No. 11 pick approached, Terrence Williams and Gerald Henderson Jr. thought they knew where they were headed. Henderson, the Duke SG, was convinced he was going to the Nets and T-Will thought he was headed for Charlotte one pick later. So convinced was Henderson that he told the media after being picked at No. 12 that he had been told that the Nets were going to take him. T-Will had even mentioned the Charlotte Bobcats in a radio interview a couple of days before the draft. Why the Nets went in the opposite direction has never been explained, but the trade of Vince Carter and Anderson for Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie that afternoon may have been a big part of it. It's been speculated that Nets thought Williams could fill more of the roles they lost with the departure of Carter, most importantly as a passer, not a Henderson strength. Really? At one point, the Nets considered taking DaJuan Blair at No. 11, but thought that was too high for a guy with no ACL's. The Spurs took him at No. 37.
From the lottery on, everyone sorta knew the Nets were going to take Derrick Favors at No. 3, the youngest player chosen in the Draft since Kevin Durant in 2007. But what most didn't know was that before the draft, the Pacers looking for a point guard and a power forward after a 32-win season offered the Nets Danny Granger and the #10 pick (which turned into Paul George) for Favors and Devin Harris. The Nets said no. The only mystery after that was who would the Nets take at No. 27 (the Dallas pick from the Jason Kidd trade) and No. 31 (the Nets' own pick). Going into the draft, Rod Thorn said he had five offers for No. 27 and three for No. 31. The Nets had their eye on two players: Craig Brackins, the 6'10" combo forward out of Iowa State, and Eric Bledsoe, John Wall's back up at Kentucky. But things didn't work out that way. Bledsoe was gone by No. 18 and Brackins at No. 21. So the Nets went to Plan B. Damion James had been listed as high as No. 12 in one of the final mock drafts and most had him going in the teens, but the Texas senior dropped. So the Nets called Atlanta and offered the No. 27 pick and No. 31 pick for the No. 24. As fans watched unaware, the Hawks took James for the Nets. By the time No. 27 had rolled around and the Hawks took Jordan Crawford, news of the trade had leaked out. The Hawks then turned around and sold the No. 31 pick to the Thunder for "cash considerations", $3.1 million, the most ever for a second round pick. They then had the Nets take a player, German 7-footer Tibor Pleiss, for them. And the deal was done. In the second round, the Nets reportedly discussed buying a pick to take Lance Stephenson, but Stephenson's checkered (to be kind) history at Lincoln High School dissuaded them. Also in the mix for that purchased pick: Brian Zoubek and Ben Uzoh. They didn't have to buy a pick for either. Both went undrafted and were signed to partially-guaranteed deals: $50,000 for. Zoubek, who troubled by a bad back, retired from the sport; $35,000 to Uzoh who made the team. Oh yeah, a kid from Glen Falls, NY, worked out for the Nets early in the off-season, wanting a promise before he declared for the draft. But Thorn stopped giving out promises after Zoran Planinic (see above) and so Jimmer Fredette returned to Brigham Young.
They had started out with three picks, but they traded their own pick to Utah in the Deron Williams deal and it rose to No. 3 in the Lottery. So what. They had Deron Williams. They did have the No. 27 pick, obtained from the Lakers in the Sasha Vujacic - Terrence Williams deal, and their own second round pick at No. 36. They liked MarShon Brooks, with some in the war room believing no one on the board had as much upside as Brooks. They didn't think he would fall, but they had done their homework on him. No workouts but they had investigated reports that he was, in Ryen Rusillo's words, "a bad kid." They found nothing. As the Draft proceeded, Brooks began to drop. He had been penciled for the Pacers just after the Lottery, but then San Antonio offered Indiana George Hill, a local kid, for the pick so they could take Kawhi Leonard. The Pacers agreed. The Knicks liked Brooks, too, but liked Iman Shumpert even more. In the stands, Brooks began to get nervous. His knees knocked. He feared doing to the draft would wind up a big embarrassment, told his mother so. Meanwhile, King was watching and getting nervous. He liked Brooks and Bojan Bogdanovic. Finally, at No. 25, King didn't want to wait any longer. He offered Danny Ainge the No. 27 pick and the Nets' 2013 second round pick in exchange for Boston's pick at No. 25. He feared that someone, maybe Dallas maybe someone else who could have acquired Dallas' pick, could swoop in and steal Brooks. He also a chance to get both Brooks and Bogdanovic. Ainge agreed...Boston liked JaJuan Johnson anyway...and the deal was done. King then moved on to Bogdanovic. Nets personnel had fallen in love with the Croatian the weekend before when he came in for a workout. His only downside was a three-year deal he had (inexplicably) signed with Fenerbahce that same week. Miami had the first pick in the second round but they too wanted someone higher. The Nets, Heat and Timberwolves did a complicated deal. The Timberwolves swapped their pick at No. 28 and cash to the Heat for Miami's pick at No. 31. The Heat took Norris Cole, their prize. The Nets then acquired the No. 31 pick from Minnesota for a reported $1.25 million and the Nets second round pick in 2014. They took Bogdanovic. Five picks later, they took Jordan Williams, passing on Chandler Parsons who they did consider. But they liked Williams rebounding. Oh well, the second round is a crap shoot.
The Nets had traded away their pick in the Gerald Wallace deal. If they had kept the pick, the overall No. 6, they had hoped to take Thomas Robinson but he went to the Kings at No. 5. They also liked Ty Zeller and Jon Henson. Instead, they had to watch as the Trail Blazers took the future rookie of the year, Damian Lillard. Would the Nets taken Lillard? No. A Nets executive provided NetsDaily with a list of six prospects the Nets might have taken at No. 6. Lillard wasn't on it, Perry Jones III was. As the first round wore on at the Prudential Center, the Nets made inquiries about a first rounder. There were some available, but the teams wanted cash and a future first round pick. The Nets weren't interested, mainly because two days earlier, Danny Ferry and Billy King began talking about a trade that would send a pick to Atlanta. Also, the Dwightmare hadn't run its course, so they wanted to hang on to their own picks. In the second round, they bought two picks. At No. 41, they took Tyshawn Taylor, using a Trail Blazer pick they had bought for $2 million. The Nets had Taylor going in the first round. Sixteen picks later, they bought the rights to Toko Shengelia for $750,000. Then, with a pick left over the 2010 Chris Quinn - Rafer Alston deal, they took Ilkan Karaman of Turkey. They considered others, like Maalik Wayns and Scott Machado, but went with the recommendations of Danko Cvjeticanin, their international scout, instead. The Nets could have had one more pick, in the second round, the Lakers pick at No. 60. As part of the Sasha Vujacic - Terrence Williams deal in 2010, the Nets could buy the pick for $250,000 as long as L.A. agreed. L.A. didn't agree and kept the pick, taking Robert Sacre.
It looked like a plain vanilla Draft Day, with no rumors of anything impending. But it turned out to be the most important Draft Day in franchise history, at least since 2001 when Thorn got Colangelo to shake hands on the Kidd deal in the afternoon, then drafted Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins that night. By the time Draft Day 2013 dawned, the Nets and Celtics had an agreement in principle to send Paul Pierce to the Nets for Kris Humphries and the Nets 2016 pick. That's when King and Dmitry Razumov got greedy and made a play for Kevin Garnett. As the rest of the league sorted out scouting reports for the worst draft in memory, King and Danny Ainge kept talking to each other.
Here's how King described the early process...
"Danny and I started talking back and forth. Then, Bobby Marks and their assistant GM wre talking back and we were really focused on Paul Pierce. I think as we got close to a deal for Paul, we said, pretty much, ‘We'll do this.’ So I said, 'What about Garnett?’ Danny said, ‘Nah, I don't think there's anything on your roster that can do it.’ So, I kept throwing things at him and kept adding and then I guess it was Draft day, the night before the Draft, I pretty much know that there's a deal there. So, we got to decide do we want to do this. Spoke with ownership and we agreed and I called Danny and said, 'We're in’."
In the first iteration of the deal, the Nets were willing to give up two more first round picks, in 2014 and 2018, plus Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Toko Shengelia for Garnett. Ainge wanted the Nets to take on Jason Terry or Courtney Lee. Lee had one more year on his deal so Terry was added to the mix. To make the deal work under the CBA, the Celtics agreed to take Keith Bogans in a sign-and-trade with a starting salary of $5.2 million. By accepting Bogans in an S&T, the Celtics sentenced themselves to a hard cap. More wrangling ensued. Ownership on both sides were consulted. The Nets needed one more agreement to get it all done: Garnett would have to waive his no-trade clause. Kidd and Deron Williams were enlisted to text-bomb KG. The Nets agreed to pay his full salary in 2014-15. Meanwhile, the Nets were pursuing another deal: Brooks and Reggie Evans for Minnesota's Luke Ridnour, an expiring contract, and the Timberwolves' 26th pick in that night's draft. The T-Wolves want the Nets to take J.J. Barea, who has an added year on his contract. No deal. A little before 10 p.m. by about pick No.17 or 18, the efforts to convince KG finally bear fruit. Garnett agrees to join the Nets, but the deal isn't done. Shengelia is replaced by Kris Joseph who has a non-guaranteed contract and ultimately, in the early morning hours, Evans gets replaced by Brooks. At some later point, D.J. White becomes a Net. The Nets' decision to dump Brooks is based largely on their inability to get value for him in that night's draft. Also, Evans is valued by Garnett, with whom he shares an agent. In the midst of all this, the Nets select Mason Plumlee at No. 22, even though they have Kevin Garnett as well as Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche up front (at that point in the evening, Evans was still in the deal.) One other footnote: The Nets' Russian ownership was greatly disappointed when the Cavaliers took Sergei Karasev at No. 19 and wanted to see if Cleveland would do a deal, perhaps in exchange for Plumlee and Bojan Bogdanovic's draft rights. Cleveland wasn't interested. Whew.
If you want to read more about the 2013 trade, you’re a masochist, but we will abide your weirdness and point you to Mr. Bondy’s Chamber of Horrors.
The Nets entered the Draft with no picks in either round. Their first rounder had been traded to Boston the year before and their second rounder had been dealt long before, for Bojan Bogdanovic in the 2011 Draft. But lo and behold, the Nets wound up the evening with three picks, the Nos. 44, 59 and 60 picks. The Nets liked Markel Brown. On their internal mock, they had him at No. 22. Why so high, compared to other teams? The Nets valued maturity and character much higher than other teams, like four year seniors from big programs. So at No. 44, they went to Minnesota, who ironically enough, had the Nets old pick, the one traded for Bogie three years earlier. The price was $1.1 million. Done deal and everyone thought done for the evening. Then according to someone in the Draft War Room, run out of the Nets locker room deep inside Barclays, Dmitry Razumov suggested that Billy King get on the phone and call the teams that held the last two picks in the Draft, the Raptors who held No. 59 and the Sixers who held No. 60. The Nets had $900,000 they could spend. They liked Xavier Thames out of San Diego State, a 6'3" combo guard, and Cory Jefferson, a 6'9" forward out of Baylor. Internally, they had both high in the second round. Both were four-year seniors. King advised that the Nets didn't have to spend the money. The Nets could simply call them once the draft ended and offer them spots in the summer league. Razumov wanted their rights and since he controls the purse strings, the Nets offered Toronto $500,000 and Philly $300,000. Done and done. And the team with no picks wound up with three, two of whom made the roster, with one of them, Brown, starting 29 games.
The Nets went into the Draft with a first round pick, at No. 29, the result of a swap with the Hawks, who got the No. 15. In the second round, they had one pick, at No. 41. There were rumors, roundly denied by the front office, that he Nets were also shopping Bojan Bogdanovic. Nothing happened. The No. 29 pick, it had seemed for weeks, was destined for Chris McCullough, the 6'11" Syracuse forward with, it was said, lottery-level talent and a blown out knee. At one point, all five big mock drafts had the Bronx native becoming the Nets first New York City kid. Well, there was a reason, as it turned out. McCullough had what was described as a "soft promise" for months. Barring the unforeseen, if he was there, at the next to last pick in the first round, Brooklyn would take him. The Nets had met with him, scoured the tapes and scouted him before his January knee injury and in high school all-star games. They liked him. But they also wanted to move up that night and take ... a point guard. The Nets realllly liked Cameron Payne and were in discussions with the Hawks about a deal, centered on Mason Plumlee, that would have delivered the No. 15 pick to Brooklyn IF Payne was still available. No dice. The Thunder selected Payne at No. 14 and it was thanks, but no thanks. Billy King had another deal in the works as well, one that worked. The Nets also liked Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and offered Plumlee and the 41st pick. They were also willing to take on Steve Blake's contract, which Portland demanded as part of the deal. and the trade got done. In the second round, the Nets were high on Juan Pablo Vaulet, with more than one executive uttering the words, "next Manu!" in discussions. At one point, they even considered using the No. 29 pick on him. Instead, they went to Charlotte and pried the 39th pick away from the Hornets with an offer of two future second rounders, in 2018 and 2020, plus $880,000. It left a lot of pundits scratching their heads. Seemed like a lot for a 19-year-old who hadn't played much outside Argentina. The only competition was supposedly the Spurs (the "Manu" thing), who had passed on him at No. 26 and didn't have another pick until No. 55. For his part, Manu Ginobili did congratulate both JPV and the Nets. At around the same time, the Grizzlies made an offer that would have changed the make-up of the Nets: they wanted Joe Johnson and offered two expiring deals, those of Jeff Green and Courtney Lee as well as Tony Allen, whose best years are behind him. Brooklyn reportedly wanted a pick --and Lionel Hollins was not a big fan of Green's. Talks were put on hold ... and never revived.
Woe is us. The Nets entered the 2016 NBA Draft with one pick, the 55th. Not only had they lost their first round pick to Boston in the 2013 Draft Night trade of death (see above if you dare), they had to swap their second rounder with the Clippers, the payment the Clippers demanded for Reggie Evans four years before. Nets fans were looking forward (?) to a dreary evening, but as new GM Sean Marks said everything changes on Draft Night... and it did. After Kenny Atkinson had called Thaddeus Young “my man” at his introductory press conference and Young said he was already texting potential free agents, Young appeared to be off-limits. Not so. On the morning of the Draft, Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Nets and Pacers were in talks to swap Young for the 20th pick, which led to a day-long speculation as to who the Nets would take. No one thought the pick would be Caris LeVert. NO one! Then shock and mostly disappointment. LeVert wasn’t on any draftnik’s mock draft as a first rounder. The highest anyone had him was No. 38 following three foot surgeries. But Marks had spoken on more than one occasion with the Nets foot/ankle specialist, Dr. Martin O’Malley. O’Malley was trusted by the Nets and he had reconstructed LeVert’s foot. That was enough. The Nets had him at No. 11 on their mock, the only one that mattered. Then, it was on to the second round and the Nets pulled off another surprise. They sent $3 million in Mikhail Prokhorov’s cash and the 55th pick to Utah so they could move up to No. 42 and take Isaiah Whitehead, who most draftniks thought wouldn’t go until the fifties. But again, for the Nets, Whitehead was a first round talent. They had him at No. 18 on the internal mock and gave him first round money. Best part: LeVert had penned a note to GM’s on Players Tribune the day before the draft, saying “I’m almost there. What I can’t wait to show the world when I make my NBA debut is a player who can handle, shoot, go hard to the hoop, and defend.” And of course, he did. So did Whitehead. Both finished in the top 10 of the 2016 draft class in scoring. (The Nets also signed another top 10 scorer in Yogi Ferrell, but you know that story.)
So here we are again, waiting to see what happens. We hope to update this night's events same time next year.