EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- The Nets went into the NBA Draft with free agency on their mind and a big part of whatever they did. They may have taken it to the extreme.
They got a James in Thursday night’s draft and a power forward who likens himself to Amar’e Stoudemire.
Next week the Nets hope they can get the real Stoudemire and the only James that anyone has been talking about in NBA circles for the last few years.
For now, the Nets are happy to say they drafted the super athletic Derrick Favors with the No. 3 pick. They think they have a future All-Star in the Georgia Tech power forward who turns 19 in three weeks.
They also think they made a good deal in sending the No. 27 and 31 picks to the Hawks for 6-foot-7 forward Damion James. That’s up for debate. But James is a rugged player who also has a finesse game. He wasn’t expected to be there when the Nets picked –- he was projected mostly in the 12-18 range. So the Nets either got a steal or there was a reason he dropped. We’ll find out eventually.
For now, you have to look at what the Nets have done in the past two days. They traded Chris Douglas-Roberts for a 2012 second-round pick, drafted a power forward with tremendous upside and dealt for a mature forward, one of the few seniors in the draft.
They also talked to every team in the league and could have started the process for other deals to be made in the next few weeks. The Nets need players.
As of now, they appear to have seven guys under contract –- eight if you count Kris Humphries, who we figure will pick up his $3.2 million option -– and have about $27 million available for free agency.
They still have plenty of holes they need to fill, like a more proven power forward, a starting small forward and a backup point guard. They also need some shooters.
Free agency starts with and is all about LeBron James. If the Nets get him, they’re in great shape regardless of what else they do. But they also need to do more.
But we’re not sure if this means they go after Stoudemire now that they have Favors. They might decide that Carlos Boozer or David Lee is a better option.
Two things though: if James decides he’s coming, he will bring a friend, a power forward of his choice. The other is if James goes elsewhere, the Nets will wind up with the power forward who wants to join them, even if it is Stoudemire.
But there are moves the Nets may try to make between now and then because they want to clear enough cap money to sign two max players. That means Yi Jianlian, among others, could be sent packing if someone is willing to take him.
Favors has to get his shot, though. He’s a terrific athlete, explosive leaper and gives the Nets a legitimate, prototypical power forward who is known for his rebounding, shot-blocking and finishing around the rim.
“We think potentially, if he can put up around 15 more pounds,” coach Avery Johnson said, “we think we have a combination of Dwight Howard with a little bit of not only power, but also finesse and great touch around the basket.”
That’s a major comparison that certainly puts some pressure on Favors to develop and become the player the Nets hope he will be. But the Nets will try to be patient.
Johnson said he doesn’t expect Favors to become a star immediately. But he should be able to impact games with his rebounding, defense and athleticism. The same can be said for both pickups in the draft.
On James, Johnson said, “He’s tough, hard-nosed and for a team that couldn’t play much defense last year, you’ve got to get some guys who can help you on that end of the floor.”
The Nets need help all over. They got a James and a Stoudemire-type athlete in the draft. They hope to get the real James and Stoudemire -- or a more proven power forward -- in free agency.
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Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)