Nets begin Phase Two of Brooklyn era with draft
Draft Provides Opportunity for King to Start Reshaping Roster
The Brooklyn Nets will host the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center for the third consecutive year on Thursday night.
And for the third straight June, they’ll also watch humbly as what is perceived as the best talent on the board – Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor — goes to other needy franchises while they wait patiently in the hopes of picking up a few useful scraps from the leftovers.
“Do I think we can move up [in the draft]? I don’t think so, but you still have to go through the process and find out,” Nets general manager Billy King said Monday during his final pre-draft sitdown with area beat reporters.
“A lot of our conversations, the price to move up is high but it tends to go down when you get closer to the draft.”
The Nets, as per conditions of their 2012 blockbuster deal with Atlanta to acquire shooting guard Joe Johnson, will be picking 29th overall in the first round and 41st in the second.
That means King and his staff will have to dig deep into their scouting reports, and find at least one, if not two, players who can suit up and make a difference in the Brooklyn lineup next season
Last June, the Nets picked up second-round pick Markel Brown in a draft-night deal from Minnesota.
The year before, they selected Mason Plumlee with the 22nd selection in the opening round.
Neither of those players were expected to come in and compete for starting positions or extended playing time as the Nets’ roster was deemed stocked and ready to compete for an Eastern Conference crown.
But the largest payroll in NBA history only got Brooklyn as far as the Eastern Conference semifinals two seasons ago, and last year, the Nets couldn’t make it past the Hawks in the opening round.
So with power forward Thaddeus Young announcing this week that he would test the free-agent waters, and center Brook Lopez likely to do the same before July, the Nets are suddenly in potential makeover mode as the 2015-16 campaign begins in earnest with Thursday’s draft.
Especially since King is doubtlessly coming to grips with the fact that the historically high-priced team he and billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov have constructed will not be the one that carries the Nets to their first-ever NBA title.
Not with $98 million point guard Deron Williams struggling to put together one strong performance during Brooklyn’s six-game elimination at the hands of the Hawks.
Or Johnson’s noticeable decline on the back end of the $90 million he was owed when King opted to trade for him three years ago.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the future Hall of Famers King traded for on the night of the 2013 Draft, are both long gone, as are the future draft considerations the Brooklyn GM dealt away for them.
That leaves King to supply head coach Lionel Hollins with some useful, and inexpensive, talent to supplement what will doubtlessly be a reshaped roster over the next several seasons.
“It’s not different than last year,” Hollins told Newsday on Tuesday. “It’s really not. I’m not as involved in the draft. I see some players. I watch tape, and Billy and his staff do a great job of identifying people that we should be considering. I go look at tape and I say, ‘Yeah, I like him’ or ‘Nah.’ But ultimately, those people that are out there all year long watching these players know them better.”
By Thursday night, there will be at least two new additions to the Brooklyn roster, and Hollins believes that where those players are picked isn’t necessarily a clear indication of what they can produce for the Nets come next season.
“You want a culture made of guys that are passionate about playing and have a good feel for playing,” he said. “They go out and they play with intensity and they are hard-nosed, don’t back down. They don’t quit. Because ultimately that’s what you win with. What position they are, we are seeing, has little bearing.”
The Nets also announced Tuesday that their new practice facility in Sunset Park won’t be ready to open in time of the start of the 2015-16 season, as originally intended.
Instead, the $45 million HSS Training Center is likely to be fully operational by February, forcing the Nets to maintain their East Rutherford, N.J., digs.
“This is New York,” Irina Pavlova, the president of Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment, noted.
“Actually now that we’re dealing with this, it gives me a new sense of appreciation for opening the Barclays on time. There were so many little things that delayed the project, it wasn’t like one big event. Permits took longer, access took longer. Everything took a little bit longer and it just added up.”
The first-ever NHL regular-season game in Brooklyn will be played at the Barclays Center on Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m. as the New York Islanders host the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
“Opening night for the Islanders at Barclays Center represents an historic event for Brooklyn,” said Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark. “We are proud to welcome the Islanders to their new home and to host the first-ever regular season NHL game in the borough.
The Islanders, who will kick off a 25-year lease agreement to play here after skating at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum since 1972, will also host three exhibition games at Barclays, beginning Sept. 21 against Philadelphia, before opening their historic 2015-16 campaign.
“There’s great anticipation for the team’s inaugural season and we are ready to offer fans a memorable experience on opening night,” Yormark added.
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