The Brooklyn Nets’ recent draft history is the complete opposite of what the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets have only had six draft picks in the last five years combined, while Philly had six picks or more in each of the last two drafts.
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov took charge in May 2010, and the team has been in win-now mode ever since. The problem is, Prokhorov gave away draft picks and spent frivolously in free agency, leaving little to no upside to a roster that currently looks like they’ll be on the outside looking in come playoff time this year. With that being said, let’s investigate the job Prokhorov has done in the last five years with the limited draft assets he’s had.
The Nets had a “normal” draft in 2011, with one pick in the first round and one in the second. At No. 27, Brooklyn took JaJuan Johnson but traded him and a 2014 first-rounder to Boston for Marshon Brooks. Brooks was eventually traded back to the Celtics in July 2013 in a big deal that sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry back to the Nets. A few solid years followed with that veteran group, but the Nets never really got close to a title. With their lone second-rounder at pick 36, the Nets took Jordan Williams, who was sent in a trade in July 2012 to the Hawks and subsequently never made an impact in the NBA.
At the onset of the 2012 draft, there weren’t a lot of assets for the Nets. After trading away their first-round selection (who ended up being Damian Lillard) as part of a package to the Trail Blazers for Gerald Wallace in March, they were left with only the 57th pick. Although, Brooklyn bought two more second-rounders in the process.
The first was used on point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who played his rookie season but was up and down between D-League and the Nets during the majority of his first two years. Eventually, Taylor was traded to the Pelicans in January 2014 for cash and the draft rights to Edin Bavcic.
International prospect Tornike Shengelia was selected by the Nets at No. 54, and came over immediately—only to spend two years in the D-League before being traded in January 2014 to the Chicago Bulls and then waived in April. Ilkan Karaman was their final pick at 57, and he never made an impact in the NBA before the dealt his rights to Cleveland in July 2014.
The Nets only had one opportunity in 2013—a first rounder—after trading away their second-round rights as part of a package for Joe Johnson in 2012. The Nets used the 22nd pick on athletic big man Mason Plumlee, who might be their best selection during the last five years. He showed glimpses of potential as a rookie and sophomore but lacked consistency on the court. Plumlee was included in a multiple player deal this past offseason with the Portland Trailblazers.
Brooklyn bought three more picks in the 2014 draft after entering the draft with zero. The Nets took shooting guard Markel Brown at No. 44, who remains with the team and showed some promise towards the end of his rookie season after beginning in the D-League. Brooklyn also bought the final two choices of the draft, which they used on combo guard Xavier Thames and athletic shot blocking big man Cory Jefferson.
Thames spent part of a year overseas before joining a D-League team before rejoining the Nets for the 2015 Summer League before renouncing his draft right earlier in September. Jefferson spent most of last year in the D-League before playing in the 2015 Summer League and being waived in July. Jefferson has since signed with the Suns.
The Nets made three selections in the 2015 draft after starting with only two. In the first round, Brooklyn took forward Chris McCullough at No. 29. McCullough was projected as a lottery candidate before tearing his ACL in his freshman season. He’ll have a “redshirt” year this season in the NBA. Their second pick was swingman Pat Connaughton, who they traded along with Plumlee in the aforementioned Portland deal for the rights to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Steve Blake.
This was a smart move for the Nets, as Hollis-Jefferson is a ready-made swingman who excels on the defensive end and in transition where his athleticism and all-around game shine. Brooklyn’s final selection was acquired in a trade for a 2018 second-round pick, a 2019 second-rounder and cash considerations. The Nets took Argentinian swingman Juan Pablo Vaulet, who should stay overseas for a bit before making any potential impact.
Overall, it’s been a tough go for Mikhail Prokhorov as majority owner of the Nets, as he’s had difficulty filling in the holes with quality pieces that can compete in a weak Eastern Conference. The decisions have been questionable-at-best, especially when you consider the best team he’s fielded since the 2010-11 season was the 49-win team in 2012-13.
The future looks bleak for Brooklyn, and perhaps it’s unsurprising that rumors have swirled that Prokhorov is potentially selling the Nets. It’s clear this team won’t be going anywhere in the nearby future with the assets they own and the people in charge.