The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Last Pre-Draft Thought

Apparently no one is entirely clear on what the Nets are going to do. Chad Ford says it’s Favors, a couple of days ago is was Johnson, there’s a ton of trade rumors going on- at best there’s several smokescreens in play, at worst it’s total chaos and no decisions have been made. For my part, I think there’s two roads the Nets can take, either of which is defensible and one of which I don’t think fans can fairly judge yet. They are:

1. Take Favors. When you have a top-5 pick in an NBA draft, even more so with a top-3, you have to take the best player available regardless of position. I hate to invoke Sam Bowie/Michael Jordan 1984 here in which Portland passed up Jordan because they already had Drexler, but… well, there you go. The reality of NBA history is that you can count on one hand the number of champions in the modern (1980-) era who won it all without a top-5-in-the-league player leading the line for them, and trying to acquire such a player by any means other than the draft is incredibly hard. Once in a while you get a gift like Shaq to LA in free agency or Garnett for magic beans, but if you’re counting on that you’re counting on a microscopic chance. If the choice comes down to Favors or Johnson for the Nets, it has to be Favors- he has the potential to be That Guy for your team, and while Johnson may be more likely to be solid, by general agreement he’s just never going to be good enough to be the best player on a title winner. I would always rather a team swing for the fences and fail in the draft than stay safe, because if you swing and miss you’re at least trying to acquire the most necessary, really nearly essential, thing for a team to have. If you take Johnson you’re really not even trying to fill that gap. Let’s be ambitious for once.

2. Trade the pick, or draft Favors and trade him. I can’t evaluate this option because I (and you) have no knowledge of what is or is not on the table for the Nets. There are potential blow-away offers out there which could make a trade worthwhile, and I’ll have more ot say on those if and when they happen. But keep this in mind: those offers should have something to do with the Nets trying to acquire a guy who can be the best player on a title winner. If that means trading for a guy who LeBron wants to play with, great; if that means getting offered such a player in a deal, great; it does not mean trading down to a mid-lottery pick this year and picking up a late first-rounder or a rotation spare part in the process. When you have an ultrastar, filling in the gaps around him isn’t that hard; when you have guys to fill the gaps, adding the ultrastar in the middle is much, much harder.

Bottom line: the Nets have a chance to get a player who could be the best guy on a title contender or title winner. That’s what they should come away from tonight with. If they don’t, someone screwed something up.

EDIT:

Incidentally, as someone with great respect for stats I suppose I should briefly address why I prefer Favors to Cousins despite Cousins’ superior translated college stats. Two main reasons: first, because everyone else seems to regardless of what the numbers say; and second, because the Nets already went through the Derrick Coleman experience once. It’s not that malcontents and people with bad attitudes can’t win titles, but it is that if you’re going to use guys like that in your team you’d better be damn sure of what you’re doing. Adding a Rasheed Wallace to a strong veteran team a la Detroit ’04 is one thing; building a team from the ground up with a guy who most people think is crazy-go-nuts as probably your best player is quite another. Cousins seems to be one of those guys who, even if he completely pans out in terms of skill and athleticism, will always cause problems and set a negative tone for a team which will inhibit them over the long term. If you’re the Nets, trying to attract big name free agents and establish yourself in a new market while battling an ingrained reputation for incompetence and chintzy-ness, do you really want that guy as the face of your franchise and the focs of your marketing efforts? It’s just not worth the risk considering that most people don’t believe that over the long term Cousins will be better than Favors, only that he’s producing better right now.

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June 24, 2010 - Posted by | The Nets

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