11:17 am Jun. 29, 20123
For the better part of two years now, virtually every move of the New Jersey-Brooklyn Nets has been geared toward keeping their star point guard, Deron Williams.
The Nets acquired Williams for a huge ransom of players and picks just after the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony. Williams is eligible for free agency following the 2011-12 season.
In Thursday night's N.B.A. Draft, the Nets did little to further that goal, while a ridiculous trade made just a few months ago prevented them from giving Williams a concrete, on-court reason to want to return.
The Nets drafted Tyshawn Taylor, a point guard from Kansas, with the 41st overall pick. The value is good, particularly for the slot where they drafted. But Taylor, a point guard like Williams, is less a supporting cast for Williams and more of a potential replacement if Williams leaves. The Nets can groom Taylor to become, in time, a starting point guard. But the Nets certainly don't want to sell their new arena with the promise of letting fans come and watch a point guard experience N.B.A. growing pains.
The other two Nets picks, Tornike Shengelia of Georgia at 54 and Ilkan Karaman of Turkey at 57, are both expected to continue playing and developing in Europe next year. So in terms of immediate help and enticement for Williams, neither one provides any.
It was hard not to think about the March deal the Nets did make to give Williams some help, however. Back at the trading deadline, the Nets gave up Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, and most crucially, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft for Gerald Wallace, a talented small forward. The problem is that Wallace had an opt-out clause in his contract following the season, and used it. So the Nets effectively gave up their most valuable piece in a trade, a high pick in the draft, for a rental player in a season when they weren't contending anyway.
At the sixth spot, the Nets could have grabbed Harrison Barnes of North Carolina, a dynamic scorer who would have given Williams an immediate weapon to utilize. Or if they wanted a center, Andre Drummond of Connecticut was available, with the upside of Dwight Howard, though he's likely several years from reaching it. Either way, the Nets would have had a significant asset, instead of, well, nothing at all.
It isn't clear how the Nets are going to pry Dwight Howard away from Orlando at this point, given what limited talent and picks they have to trade for him. And the roster, as-is, requires Williams to make a huge leap of faith if he is to re-sign.
As for the Dallas Mavericks, Williams' hometown team and the likely Nets competitor for his services, they added three players who should contribute immediately in last night's draft. Whether that brought them closer to grabbing Williams as well, and thus ruining the Brooklyn Year One Plan, remains to be seen. Free agency begins on July 1.