Nets can finally say wait til next year
Ill-fated blockbuster will finally be behind Brooklyn on draft night
“With the eighth pick in the 2018 Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select [fill in the blank],” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will utter from the dais at Barclays Center at about 9 p.m. or so on June 21.
And with that announcement, the last remnants of arguably the worst deal in modern league history, and certainly the most damaging during the Brooklyn era of the Nets’ franchise will come to an end.
The Nets have been paying for general manager Billy King’s so-called 2013 blockbuster deal with the Celtics for far too long now, getting another painful reminder of the ill-fated swap Tuesday night during the NBA’s annual Draft Lottery.
Terms of the deal, which saw Brooklyn send its first-round picks in 2014, 2016, 2018 and the right to swap first-rounders in 2017 to Boston in exchange for future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, has been lampooned virtually since its inception.
Or at least since the Nets dropped out of the NBA playoff picture like a stone since eking in as the No. 8 seed in 2014-15 with a 38-44 record, and then getting unceremoniously ousted by the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round.
That came the year after Brooklyn got at least something in return for the lopsided trade, pulling out a Game 7 win in Toronto in the first round of the 2013-14 postseason on Pierce’s well-chronicled “Swat Heard ‘Round the World” on Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.
That remains the Nets’ only playoff series win since moving here in 2012, and the last one in team history since the 2006-07 campaign, when the Nets also snuck past Toronto in the opening round before a younger LeBron James stomped them out in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Since Pierce’s memorable Game 7 block, the Nets have gone a combined 69-177 over the past three regular seasons, watching helplessly as attendance figures at Barclays Center have decreased, and even worse, a steady stream of their first-round picks have gone to other, less-needy teams.
But that all ends in a month and five days, when Cleveland, which acquired the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder from Boston via the “blockbuster” deal that sent superstar Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers to the Celtics, picks eighth overall on draft night.
The Nets, who are coming off a 28-win season that netted them the 29th overall pick next month, will also pick 40th and 45th in the second round.
General manager Sean Marks, who inherited this massive rebuilding project on Feb. 18, 2016, watched his team go an NBA-worst 20-62 in 2016-17, only to hand what turned out to be the top overall pick to Philadelphia via trade from Boston.
The 76ers selected Markelle Fultz, who missed the majority of his rookie campaign due to injury, while the Celtics grabbed Jayson Tatum at No. 3 overall, a player who has become a breakout star in the NBA playoffs, pacing Boston to within two games of the NBA Finals as of Tuesday night.
Marks hasn’t blinked despite being robbed of picking at the top end of the draft, the place most franchises go to orchestrate turnarounds.
He grabbed spindly center Jarrett Allen out of the University of Texas at No. 22 in last year’s draft, and the 7-footer delivered a strong campaign, averaging 8.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks during his initial NBA campaign.
But Allen is still more of a development project than a can’t-miss franchise-changing talent.
At this time next year, the Nets will be on the clock for a first-round pick all their own, one that will be determined by their on-the-court performance in Year Three of the Marks-Kenny Atkinson era.
Though Atkinson, a noted player-development guru, has worked wonders with the likes of Marks pick-ups like Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris, the Nets are still leaning on D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe and Jeremy Lin to help lead them out of NBA obscurity next season.
Brooklyn’s attractiveness as a potential free-agent landing spot over the next few seasons will also rely heavily on Marks’ ability to do the best he can with next year’s first-rounder, which still figures to be a lottery pick unless the Nets miraculously remain healthy and play well enough to end their playoff drought in 2018-19.
Regardless of what happens at next month’s draft on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, once it is completed, the Nets will finally be on the clock and in control of their own draft destiny, something that has eluded their grasp nearly every year since the summer of 2013.
Nothing But Net: The Nets are already weighing on how they can cash in on Monday’s monumental Supreme Court ruling that cleared the path for legal gambling on professional and collegiate sports in states across the nation. “We see a real upside on sports betting, and we’re going to take advantage of it,” Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark told Sports Business Journal earlier this week, pointing to the Nets’ new ownership structure as a major reason for the potential financial windfall. With Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai buying up 49 percent of Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s stake in the NBA franchise, the Nets are set up to go even more global with their brand, and potentially rake in a fortune from Asia, which is home to the biggest gambling market in the world.
“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court will have a tremendous impact on fan engagement and creates value for the Nets and our venues,” Yormark said. “We are currently exploring sports betting opportunities, and once we fully understand the legislative direction, we can better determine how to activate in the space.” Yormark and the Nets may have to wait in line for their opportunity to cash in on the numerous marketing opportunities presented by the Supreme Court’s decision to ban the federal law on sports betting. New Jersey will begin opening sports betting parlors as early as later this month in advance of the NBA Finals and New York As per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statements regarding the ruling Monday, New York may have to wait until next year to pass a law lifting the sports betting ban.