Mikhail Prokhorov makes his debut as the New Jersey Nets owner at the NBA draft lottery, and he already has this going for him: The Nets' dreadful season has rewarded him with the greatest odds of landing this year's No. 1 pick. But if Prokhorov is fortunate enough to secure the top choice, don't expect the Russian billionaire to immediately hold up a Nets' jersey with "Wall" emblazoned on the back.
A year ago, Los Angeles Clippers president Andy Roeser pulled out a Blake Griffin(notes) jersey after surprisingly landing the No. 1 pick, signaling his team's intention to select the Oklahoma forward. Nets president Rod Thorn, however, said New Jersey isn't quite ready to commit to Wall, even though he's widely projected as the top player available. Thorn said the Nets also will take a strong look at Ohio State swingman Evan Turner, Kentucky forward DeMarcus Cousins, Georgia Tech forward Derrick Favors and Wake Forest forward Al Farouq-Aminu.
"We won't be pulling out a jersey unless our owner has one that I don't know about," Thorn said.
The Nets have a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick after finishing with just 11 wins. They also already have a talented point guard on their roster in Devin Harris(notes), who could become trade bait should the Nets take Wall. Passing on Wall would be a huge gamble, particularly if the Nets hope to sign a marquee free agent from a class headlined by LeBron James(notes).
Regardless of where the Nets fall in the lottery, Thorn is confident the addition of a high draft pick, combined with whoever the team signs in free agency and a new coach, will help the franchise improve dramatically.
"We had a terrible year, but we have a chance to come back quickly," Thorn said. "…We're in the ballgame now."
The Nets' position is in contrast to that of the Utah Jazz, who reached the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, but also have a shot at landing the top choice because they own the New York Knicks' first-round pick. The Phoenix Suns initially held the Knicks' selection, but sent it to the Jazz in 2004 while unloading Tom Gugliotta's contract.
"They have a good team as it is," Thorn said. "And if they get lucky?
"I'm glad they're not in the Eastern Conference."
The Jazz have only a 2.2 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick, but are assured of drafting no worse than 11th. They also already have arguably the NBA's best point guard in Deron Williams(notes). If Utah does lands the top pick, general manager Kevin O'Connor said he wouldn't be opposed to drafting a point guard to play alongside Williams.
The Jazz also could lose their starting power forward, Carlos Boozer(notes), in free agency, which would seemingly make it a priority for them to find another big man. Cousins, Favors, Aminu, Georgetown's Greg Monroe, Kansas' Cole Aldrich, North Carolina's Ed Davis and Kentucky's Patrick Patterson all could be available depending on where the Jazz draft.
"We've said all along that anything we can do to better our team," O'Connor said. "I would say this, we do have a great point guard already."
- Rod Thorn