Jim Mancari, SNYNets.com
Brooklyn's Barclays Center is set to host the 2013 NBA Draft, so mark your calendars for Thursday, June 27. But for the Nets, the draft is especially significant because of the team's payroll situation. The Nets won't have much wiggle room in terms of signing free agents, so nailing draft picks over the next few years will be the best way for this team to continue to improve.
In next month's NBA draft, the Nets have the 22nd overall pick. After last week's draft combine, we have heard the names of a few prospects who have raised eyebrows, but there is still a few weeks to go before draft night, so at this point, it is impossible to know not only who the Nets will covet by the time the draft rolls around, but also who will be available for them to choose when they are on the clock.
As a result, at least for now, handicapping who the Nets may take is extremely difficult. C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche may both be lost to free agency, but the core of the team will still be intact.
The challenge for Billy King will be to find a player who can contribute right away that also fills a need.
So what's the best strategy at No. 22?
The Nets appear to have a need at the starting power forward position. Reggie Evans did an admirable job in starting role, but he just does not provide the offensive presence the Nets need.
He could still be an option to return if he’s willing to accept a reserve role. The energy spark he can provide off the bench would make him a valuable asset.
The real question mark is Andray Blatche. The Nets are extremely limited in what they can offer Blatche to re-sign with the team, and he may covet a richer deal elsewhere, especially if he is offered a starting job. If Blatche is given the chance to start at power forward for the Nets—a team coming off a playoff berth—he may not worry as much about the contract. But it will be impossible for Blatche to know how the Nets new head coach will use him, because we still have no idea who the new head coach will be.
Going back to the draft, the Nets would also be wise to draft a true center to serve as Brook Lopez’s backup. Blatche played center with the second unit, but his shooting range often brought him outside the paint. So, even if we assume that Blatche re-signs with the team, there is certainly a need for a frontcourt player, particularly a reserve big man to crash the boards and score in the paint.
Some potential center options that might be available at No. 22 are the following: Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), Mason Plumlee (Duke), Steven Adams (Pittsburgh), Rudy Gobert (France) and Jeff Withey (Kansas).
Dieng might be a bit of stretch to still be available that late, but any of the others could be there when the Nets pick. The 7'1" Withey could be intriguing, especially since he prides himself in playing strong interior defense.
Going back to Game 7 against the Bulls, the Nets allowed quite a few easy baskets in the paint, and changing that could be helped by drafting another paint protecting shot blocker.
Lopez took strides defensively last season, and Withey would ensure that the Nets always had big defensive presence on the floor.
Since the free-agent period starts July 1, it’s tough to gauge the Nets’ thought process at this point. But an impact player can be had at No. 22; it’s just a matter of finding who that player will be and choosing wisely.
Again, nailing the draft pick is important, especially considering the constraints the Nets will face in the NBA's new, restrictive economic climate. As the draft nears, we will keep you up to date with prospects that the Nets are said to have the hots for.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.