The Nets were never worried about what would happen in the NBA Draft Lottery. They were never concerned Utah would get the first overall pick, just as they wouldn’t have been if they made the deal with Denver for Carmelo Anthony.
Billy King probably decided the day he took over as Nets general manager last July that getting an established All-Star and franchise-changing player is more vital to the organization’s growth than an unproven college player who may not develop for a few years.
He’s right, especially since there is no Derrick Rose, LeBron James or Blake Griffin in this draft. If you have the chance to get Anthony or Deron Williams you do whatever it takes and if it costs you a No. 1 pick in a draft that doesn’t have star power you make the trade. And you make it again. And you make it again.
Even if the draft has star power, you make the trade for Williams, considering where the Nets came from, where they were and where they want to go.
So what that the Utah Jazz wound up climbing from sixth to third with the pick the Nets sent them for Williams. Utah will wind up with Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker or Enes Kanter. The Nets still have Williams.
Even if Utah finished first or second and were in position to take Duke's Kyrie Irving or Arizona's Derrick Williams, the Nets still have Williams. They have a piece they can and plan to build around, someone who can attract players and who makes everyone around him better.
He was a better get for the organization than Anthony would have been, and then holding onto Derrick Favors and their first-round pick.
You don’t know what would have happened if the Nets never made the trade, and wound up moving Devin Harris to Portland or Dallas. You don’t know where they would have ended up in the standings and in the lottery. But King didn’t seem to care about it when we talked to him about the lottery last week.
“There’s not a guy in the draft as good as Deron Williams,” King said.
There aren’t many guys in the NBA as good as Deron Williams when he’s healthy, which he wasn’t at all with the Nets. He had surgery on his wrist and will be ready for camp, whenever that is since there is the potential for a lockout.
If there is a team that can’t afford a lockout it’s the Nets. They want to keep in constant contact with Williams and work on improving the team and surrounding him with the type of players that will keep him in a Nets’ uniform beyond his current contract. The Dwight Howard pursuit will happen eventually.
King can make some moves between now and June 30, but you wonder how much activity there’s going to be if no one knows what the new collective bargaining agreement is going to look like.
What we do know after last night’s lottery is where everyone’s picking in the June 23 NBA Draft. The top five picks belong to Cleveland (from the Clippers), Minnesota, Utah (from the Nets), Cleveland again and Toronto.
We also know because the Nets, who finished with the same record as the Kings, placed higher in the lottery than the Kings, they will pick later in the second round. The Nets have the No. 36 pick and the No. 27 choice in the first round, which they acquired from the Lakers.
If they keep the pick – and King has a history for being very active on draft day – the Nets might find good role players there, some athletes they can bring off the bench who can change the pace of the game or provide some type of spark. But they’re not going to get an immediate impact player, and they may not have had they held on to their own first-round pick.
That’s why it was a good move at the time and still a good move for the Nets. Now it’s all about using those two picks and other assets – young players on reasonable deals, salary cap space – and building a team that doesn’t make any more trips to the lottery.
This was the fourth consecutive year the Nets missed the postseason. The other three teams got them Brook Lopez (great pick), Terrence Williams (disappointment) and Favors. He was the key to the Williams’ deal, but the two draft picks they included helped.
The Nets didn’t mind giving them up, especially the lottery pick. They didn’t care what number it became. Williams was the Nets’ prize anyway.
Follow me on Twitter@ Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)