By Steve Lichtenstein
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Tuesday was Half-Christmas, which might explain why the Nets are rumored to be in such a giving mood — while at the same time ready to give up on one of their precious few young assets.
Various media reports are suggesting that the brain trust in Brooklyn (meaning general manager Billy King) wants to add a first-round pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft and is willing to cede swingman MarShon Brooks to get it.
As usual, I have no idea what King is thinking.
Never mind that this has been categorized as a relatively weak draft, with few entrants capable of making an immediate impact. But even worse is that King is willing to trade Brooks for a comparatively low-rent property. ESPN.com reported that King is enamored with Minnesota’s pick — not the lottery one at No. 9 — but the one that they acquired from Western Conference finalist Memphis, which is 26th overall.
What does King think he can get there? Some 7-foot oaf with limited offensive skills, like Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng, who has slipped in mock drafts thanks to concerns about his knees?
And oh, by the way, the Nets also have their own selection at No. 22. Which means that if they really love Dieng, no one would kill them for taking him a handful of spots early. They don’t need an extra pick.
For those who want the veteran Nets to get younger and rebuild their bench through the draft, I remind you that Dieng, who is scheduled to work out at Nets headquarters on Wednesday, is all of one year younger than the enigmatic Brooks.
Look, there is no dispute that Brooks took a step back in his sophomore campaign this past season. With the Nets re-making their roster a year ago to step up in class for their new Brooklyn crowd, Brooks was asked to earn his minutes after being forced into action as a rookie for the Nets’ dreadful final season in New Jersey.
However, first Avery Johnson and then P.J. Carlesimo grew tired of Brooks’ mistakes on defensive assignments and his penchant for negative plays on offense. Fans would shudder every time that Brooks tried to split a double-team or stepped back to fire from three-point distance. Brooks was a frequent visitor to the Nets’ doghouse.
But every once in a while, Brooks would show us how he managed to score all those points in the Big East. With his high-level penetration game, Brooks is lethal on the fast break as he excels at finishing around the basket.
You know, the type of player who would thrive should newly-minted coach Jason Kidd opt, as he promised, to pick up Brooklyn’s pace in 2013-14.
Kidd already has his hands full with all the pressure to raise the Nets into the elite stratosphere despite a roster that isn’t fully equipped to get there. Outside of the Nets’ Big Three of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, there are few weapons that opponents must fear. The Nets need more scoring from their forwards, preferably someone who can catch fire from three-point range.
But that’s not what the Nets are rumored to be looking at in this draft. Dieng is a rim protector, pure and simple. Can you imagine having Dieng out on the floor paired with Reggie Evans or Kris Humphries? It would be like trying to score shorthanded in hockey.
Others who might be around at that point, like Kansas’ Jeff Withey or, if he slips, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, are not NBA-ready. Or, should King again go the “Eurostash” route (like he did in 2011 with Croatian Bojan Bogdanovich, who might actually fill that scoring-forward role if he’s not merely a slightly smaller Mirza Teletovic and the Nets can finalize his buyout to bring him over from Turkey), how does that help in the Nets’ win-now mode?
The smarter move would be to hold on to Brooks and develop him this summer. After all, wasn’t Kidd hired to be the mentor to the Nets’ young players? King reportedly felt that Johnson and Carlesimo neglected those responsibilities, which was one of the reasons that those two men no longer work there.
Brooks, Humphries’ expiring contract and future first-round picks are pretty much the Nets’ only assets with any trade value whatsoever. The Nets are in salary-cap hell, with limited moves available to improve the team. Key backups Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson might not return after sticking their toes in the free-agent waters.
Why give up one of those assets now, especially for a player of uncertain value next season?
It’s too early for King to dress up as Santa.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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