For the Brooklyn Nets, the 2014 NBA draft must feel kind of like not being allowed to participate in your own birthday party. The event is being held at their sleek new arena, the Barclays Center, but the Nets don't even have a single pick at their disposal. In the building erected for a new era of Nets basketball, the rest of the league gets to construct their futures.
All is not lost, though. As Portugal proved to the United States in Sunday's World Cup match, surprising things can happen at the last minute. So, with just a few days left before Thursday's draft, the Nets still have time to trade for a pick. That's a three-step process for Brooklyn, though. They must put together a desirable package, find a team willing to give away a pick and then use that pick to acquire the right player.
What Brooklyn Can Offer
The Nets have $2 million in cash to offer in a trade, which—in an age when recently drafted players are the best bargains and the salary cap is over $60 million—isn't very much. They'll have to pair that money with one of their current players just to get other franchises sniffing.
Let's get one thing straight: The big names won't be moving. As much as Nets fans might be frustrated with Deron Williams' ankles or Brook Lopez's feet, those players will be lacing up for Brooklyn next season, along with Joe Johnson. Not only does that trio form the core of the Brooklyn Nets' future in the eyes of the team's management, but their giant contracts will scare away any potential trade partners.
So the Nets will have to look to their bench to find a tradable player. Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic were two of the most important players off the pine for the Nets season last year, and both would draw interest from around the league. Brooklyn is unlikely to trade either, though. Plumlee and Teletovic have a combined three years of NBA experience and are improving rapidly. Their youth and projectability are exactly the traits the Nets are looking for to balance their aging roster.
There aren't that many assets left for Brooklyn. Remember, Andray Blatche has already opted out to test free agency, and guys like Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko could follow suit in the next week. Paul Pierce is a free agent and Kevin Garnett might retire.
The two players that could potentially move are Marcus Thornton and Marquis Teague. Thornton is owed $8.7 million next season, and Teague is owed $1.1 million, but beyond 2015 their teams would have no obligation. Thornton's contract expires after next season, and Teague's includes a team option for 2015-16.
Franchises looking to cut salaries before the superstar-rich 2015 free-agent season might be intrigued by the duo. Teague, who only really played garbage-time minutes for the Nets, isn't much of a catch. On the other hand, Thornton, who averaged over 18 points a game in 2011-12, confirmed his status as an explosive offensive player off the bench last season. Teams starved for backcourt scoring will not overlook him.
Finally, the Nets could throw in the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic, the 25-year-old Turkish sharpshooter. Bogdanovic wouldn't be the main attraction in a trade, but he might be enough to tip a deal from speculation into reality.
And that's about it. Brooklyn can't trade their first-round picks in 2015 or 2017 since they've already traded their first-round picks in 2016 and 2018. The NBA doesn't allow teams to trade their first-round picks in consecutive years.
So if the Nets do make a move, expect it to include Thornton and $2 million, with perhaps a side dish of Teague or Bogdanovic.
What Brooklyn Can Get
The Nets won't be receiving a very high pick in return. The 2014 draft is loaded, and not just with big names like Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker at the top. There's value to be found throughout the first round and into the second, making teams more wary of giving away their picks.
Nets GM Billy King expressed a desire to acquire a first-round pick, but his ambitions may lie outside the realm of realistic possibilities. Considering that the Nets can only offer a year of Thornton's service coupled with a modest combination of cash and spare parts, don't expect Brooklyn to sneak into the first round.
Brooklyn should target franchises with picks to spare. The Philadelphia 76ers have the 32nd, 39th, 47th and 54th overall picks in the second round. The Milwaukee Bucks have the 31st, the 36th and the 48th picks. The Minnesota Timberwolves have the 40th, 44th and 53rd picks.
These teams already have young rosters, making the acquisition of a veteran like Thornton perhaps more useful than loading up on a crowd of rookies. The 76ers, Bucks and Wolves will look to pick up a franchise-changing player in the first round and then ensure that enough experience is waiting for him on the existing roster. Subsequently, the Nets could be an ideal trade partner come draft day.
Who Brooklyn Should Draft
When figuring out whom the Nets should target with their potential draft pick, one should recall the Nets' existing trio of superstars.
Brook Lopez, despite his history of injury, is one of the best offensive centers in the league. He also has the emerging Mason Plumlee and Kevin Garnett to back him up or join him in the starting frontcourt. Thus, Brooklyn should not draft a big man.
Joe Johnson has played 151 games in the past two years and is Brooklyn's most consistent scoring option. That doesn't mean the Nets should ignore shooting guards, but they don't need to focus on them.
Deron Williams is the incumbent point guard and is signed through the next three years. However, there's the distinct possibility that Williams gets injured again or becomes unhappy with the Nets and demands a trade. Therefore, the Nets should consider drafting a point guard.
There are two point guards that would fit well within the Nets style of play. First is Jordan Clarkson, a junior out of Missouri. Clarkson is big for a point guard, standing 6'5" with a 6'8" wingspan. His size would work well within the Nets defensive schemes. Jason Kidd likes rangy guards and swingmen to clog passing lanes and allow for constant switching.
Clarkson might not be an elite scorer at the NBA level, but he wouldn't need to be with Johnson and Lopez on the court. His athleticism would allow him to slot in for Shaun Livingston (if Livingston chooses to leave) next to Deron Williams, and he'd infuse the Nets' poor fast-break offense. DraftExpress currently has Clarkson going in the late first round, but he could easily fall low enough to be scooped up in the early second by the Nets.
If the Nets don't want Clarkson, they should consider Vasilije Micic out of Serbia. At 6'6", he has plus size like Clarkson and would similarly suit the Nets' long-armed defense. While Micic doesn't have the raw athleticism of Clarkson, he is a far better passer and could run a deadly pick-and-roll game with Brooklyn's bigs. Micic could definitely be around for Brooklyn to snag in the second round.
Then again, the Nets may pray that Williams' health holds up and choose not to draft a point guard. In that case, they should look for a swingman with some bounce to his step. The 2014 playoffs proved that the Nets could occasionally shoot the lights out but struggled mightily in transition.
Two players that could come to Brooklyn's aid in this respect are Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Both are projected to go somewhere between the 30th and 40th picks, making them legitimate possibilities for the Nets.
Early, out of Wichita State, caught the nation's attention when he dropped 31 points in a second-round defeat to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. He could play either forward position for Kidd's small-ball lineup and would provide an offensive dual-threat that, besides for Johnson, the Nets don't really have. Plus, he can run the break for the Nets while their older players catch their breath at the other end of the floor.
Antetokounmpo, born in Greece, played for the Delaware 87ers of the D-League last season. He hasn't developed much of an offensive game, but he could be a solid role player off the bench for Brooklyn. The Nets don't have a defensive stopper at the moment, making Antetokounmpo and his 7'0" wingspan quite the temptation. Maybe next time Kevin Durant comes into town, Antetokounmpo will prevent him from torching Brooklyn again.
Antetokounmpo also has a genetic advantage. The Bucks drafted his brother, Giannis, last season and were pleasantly surprised by his impressive ability to contribute on both ends and run the floor. If Thanasis can in any way emulate his kin, Brooklyn may have struck gold.
The 2014 draft will be not be as exciting for the Brooklyn Nets as it will be for other teams. Even if Brooklyn can finagle a pick out of another franchise, it will most likely be a second-rounder.
Still, there are valuable players to be found in the later picks. If the Nets operate intelligently on June 26, they may land themselves a future starter.
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