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NJ Draft Recap: Nets Edition

Deron Williams (Anthony Gruppuso – USA Today Sports Images)

Deron Williams (Anthony Gruppuso – USA Today Sports Images)

The all-in gambles Nets GM Billy King has taken over the last few years have not panned out anywhere near as well as he’d hoped, to say the least. But King’s anticipated 2015 Draft Day moves hint that he’s put aside the get-rich-quick schemes – for now – and is looking to secure a sustainable future for Brooklyn.

With the swing-for-the-fences attitude appearing to take a backseat, the Nets adeptly managed the unenviable draft situation they created for themselves in acquiring guard Joe Johnson from the Hawks in 2012. Without a pick in the top 25, King dealt center Mason Plumlee and their second-round pick Pat Connaughton to Portland in exchange for the Blazers’ first-round pick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (23rd), and veteran point guard Steve Blake.
The Nets also secured Syracuse forward Chris McCullough with the 29th pick, which they’d ended up with in the aforementioned Johnson deal.
Looking at the picks themselves, it could be argued that Brooklyn ended up with a great value given their draft position. Despite missing most of his one and only season at Syracuse with an ACL injury, McCullough, some NBA executives have argued, has possible lottery talent, while Hollis-Jefferson, a first-team All Pac-12 selection at Arizona, provides a welcomed addition at the forward position. Also registering on the Pac-12’s 2015 All Defensive Team, Hollis-Jefferson has been compared to other NBA defensive greats, including fellow-Wildcat and recent Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.
Both McCullough and Hollis-Jefferson offer athleticism, length, and jump shooting to a Nets rotation that has struggled somewhat from the floor given the names on its roster. Last season they ranked 16th in the league in field goal percentage. One would think a lineup featuring the names Williams, Johnson, and Lopez would propel an offense to an above-average level, but this has simply not been the case in Brooklyn.
The addition of point guard Steve Blake, too, seems a solid addition to the backcourt. Surely acquired to provide back-up to Deron Williams, who is presumably on the books for the next two years, Blake adds experience to a team that, while veteran for the most part, will need to rely on its young talent going forward. An NBA journeyman, Blake has reached the playoffs each of the last five years on one team or another, most recently backing up Damien Lillard in Portland. Securing Steve Blake suggests that, while the future is in mind with the draft picks, King has not submitted to “rebuilding” attitude, but instead is still focused on winning.
This focus will hopefully be enough to keep Brook Lopez a Net for the rest of his career. Lopez has opted out of the final year on his contract and is expected to explore free agency. While this does not necessarily mean he won’t end up in Brooklyn next season, it’s beyond doubt that Lopez offers playoff-level talent and will fetch offers. King will need to strike a balance between fostering talent in the newly acquired picks and getting the most from the rest of the Nets aging roster.
But with the 2015 NBA Draft now in the books, Nets fans, at the very least, have a reason to be excited.

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