By Cory Bernstein
There has been talk about how The Nets got ripped off by the lottery process this year. They traded their pick to the Jazz in the Deron Williams deal, and this pick moved up four spots in the lottery to be picking third.
But this is a complete excersise in futility for any Net fan to think about. In fact, Net fans should be rejoicing right now that the pick Billy King gave up was from this year's draft and not one in the future. The 2011 Draft Class was one of the weakest of all time to begin the season, as Harrison Barnes was playing awful, Perry Jones looked poised to be a Luke Babbitt (more on that later), Kyrie Irving was hurt, Enes Kanter was deemed ineligible by the NCAA, and Jared Sullinger was still 6'8. But, with the decisions by Perry Jones, Barnes, Terrance Jones, Sullinger, amongst scores of other players to stay in college next season, it assured this draft class to be the weakest since 2000, when you guessed it, The Nets won the lottery and picked Kenyon Martin.
But behind the Cavs, The Nets have to be considered the winners of the lottery this year. Billy King did something this February that few GM's are willing to do in the NBA this season, grow a pair. In a league where Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins, effectively ruining the Celtics because of fear that they couldn't resign him, the Nets did the opposite. They traded an overrated point guard, a 19 year old, and two first round draft picks for one of the ten best players in the NBA. Who cares that he is only under contract for 18 months, take a risk it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. Few teams in the NBA have been able to do this over the past few years, and I'm thrilled to say the Nets are one of them.
By trading for Deron Williams, the Nets not only proved that they're willing to roll the dice to win basketball games, but that they have confidence in their players under contract and their owner's plan to be a better basketball team. King knew that his seventh pick in this weak draft was going to amount to little, that Devin Harris isn't really what he's cut out to be, and that Derrick Favors has the chance to burst and turn into a superstar. In a draft like this one, The Nets don't need a high pick to be successful. The 27th pick may as well be the 10th this year, because it wouldn't shock anyone if a guy like Tyler Honeycutt or Tobias Harris became one of the "stars" from this class.
So, there is no need to complain about the Nets pick jumping to third. Yes, it stinks that the Nets' pick moved up in a year where they didn't own it. But, no GM in the NBA, with the possible exception of David Kahn, would take Harris, Favors, the 3rd pick in the draft, and the Golden State 2012 1st rounder for six years of Deron Williams, which it increasingly looks like The Nets will get. This year's draft is filled with Luke Babbitts. To explain this, Luke Babbitt was the sixteenth pick in last year's draft by Portland, and he never stood a stance a chance in the NBA. He was a horrible defender, too slow to play small forward, and way to small and soft to play the four. Babbitt's a decent shooter, but nowhere near good enough to make a living off of it in the NBA. Babbitts are guys who are picked in the first round of the draft (usually the first 20 picks) and once their picked, are just guaranteed busts. And this year, there's a ton of Babbitts.
In the average draft, there may be one Babbitt, but this year the Babbitts look like they may be top seven or eight picks, instead of the more common ten-fifteen range. range. The best example of this Jonas Valanciunas. He may be seen as the top foreign player in this draft, but there is no way this guy ever performs at a high level. First, he is in a terrible contract with Lietuvos Rytas, his European team. Second, he has the dreaded "S" word with NBA scouts, soft. If you are a soft power forward, you will fail in the NBA. You don't have to be Dwight Howard, but every big has to make some effort to get rebounds and play hard defense. If you think this is false, then see Jianlian, Yi.
My point in all of this is that the Nets are the winners of the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery. There is no top-flight talent in this draft, and a seventh, third, or even first pick in this one is worth a lot less than normal. Deron Williams is a lot better than any of these guys will ever be. Trading for him was clearly a risk, but a risk that needed to be taken. Harris, Favors, and this draft pick were simply not going to get The Nets to the place that Mikhail Prokhorov wants to be, and that is contending year in and year out for an NBA title. But, Deron is the type of franchise player that the Nets can begin to win games with. Between, Deron, Brook Lopez, and the money the Nets have this summer that will surely be spent on somebody. This draft is full of duds, and Billy King can be seen as the winner of this lottery by backing out of it and trading for a far superior player. At this year's lottery, there was no Nets representative, no viewing party, no Mikhail Prokhorov terrorist video. But, the Nets came out as winners, something that could not be said about last year.
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