Thanks the Nets shuffling around James Harden from Houston to Brooklyn and now Philadelphia, the organization enters the 2022 NBA Draft down one first-round pick and up one No. 23 pick. This gives the team a chance to draft another young player to develop, but according to ESPN, the Nets have decided not to draft anyone this year.
That’s right, Brooklyn told the league on Wednesday that they would be deferring their pick back to Philly and will be taking their first-round pick in 2023’s draft. (This is something you can do, ESPN tells me, and an interesting move that I did not expect Brooklyn to take, i.e., choosing to have zero draft picks.
The team might have acquired Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond in the James Harden trade, but they were swept in the playoffs by the Boston Celtics and Ben Simmons has not played on the court in over a year.
So, what does this decision mean? Let’s break it down:
PROS: Pick Flexibility and Lineup Saturation
By foregoing the draft pick, the Nets are essentially betting on two things: that the Sixers lack-of-success next season could send the pick higher up in the draft order, or that they could use it next season in trade dealings.
Looking at how the Nets have shuffled players around the last two seasons instead of working on developing young talent, chances are that they’re hoping to use it for a trade, and one that might help bring them a center in exchange for Andre Drummond or Blake Griffin.
Having Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant in your starting five also means that there isn’t much room for incoming new talent. The Nets also have Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Bruce Brown, Goran Dragic, and Nic Claxton–all stars deserving of a starting slot or at-least heavy rotation off the bench due to their time on the roster.
2021 Draftees like Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards, and Day’Ron Sharpe, already had a hard time fighting for minutes last season, and they even had the advantage of having no Joe Harris, an injured KD, and a vaccine-less Kyrie to grant them more playing time.
Looking at the roster as it stands, differing the pick could have been a strategy for the Nets. They’re already saturated with players, and the team still has to figure out which lineup functions best. Even without Ben Simmons added in, the Brooklyn Nets had 43 different starting lineups throughout the 2021-2022 season. Maybe they need this season just to look at what they already have and adjust from there.
CONS: The Nets Aren’t Exactly a Young Team and Their Defense Was Atrocious
Entering the 2021-2022 season, the Brooklyn Nets were the 2nd oldest team in the league behind the Lakers. The average age of the Nets was 28.1 years old, sporting players such as LaMarcus Aldridge (36), Blake Griffin (33), Kevin Durant (33), Kyrie Irving (30), and Joe Harris (30). Two of their biggest acquisitions at the trade deadline also included Andre Drummond (28) and Goran Dragic (36).
In comparison with the Boston Celtics, who swept Brooklyn 4-0 and then went on to the NBA Finals, Jayson Tatum is just 24 years old. The rest of their starting five are: Jaylen Brown (25), Marcus Smart (28), Al Horford (35), and Robert Williams III (24). Sure, they have Al Horford’s 35-year-old frame running around on the court, but he certainly isn’t acting like he’s seven years older than Andre Drummond.
Cam Thomas, one of the Nets’ 2021 draft picks, showed real promise and was putting down 20-point games in Kyrie’s absence, but I just don’t see him getting the minutes he needs to improve on a star-packed Nets team the same way someone like Herb Jones did starting for the Pelicans.
As much as the Nets need younger talent however, they also need better defense, and there’s no better place to bank on acquiring both than an NBA Draft. In the 2021-2022 season, the Nets had the worst defensive rebound percentage and were one of the worst rated defensive teams in the league (No. 20 out of 30).
ESPN originally projected the Nets to go with Walker Kessler (a 7’1″ center and winner of three prestigious Defensive Player of the Year awards), while Christian Koloko (a 7’1″ center and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year) could have also been a great late draft addition. However, the Nets won’t be able to acquire any of them without a pick.
Sure, No. 23 in the draft order doesn’t solidify that you would have the option to draft players like Mark Williams or Jalen Duren (who are both projected to be selected in the top 15), but a young center like Koloko or Kessler could have really bolstered a team with aging big men.
There’s the chance that they could offer contracts to players who go undrafted, but the Nets don’t exactly have cap space to work with either. According to Sportrac, the Brooklyn Nets are already over the luxury tax threshold by $9 million.
Do you think it was a good decision? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.