ANALYSIS: What does it mean for the Nets if the Hornets ‘change’ course?

June 23, 2022. 364 days ago. Paolo Banchero’s odds to be #1 overall in 2022 NBA Draftat least according to the sportsbooks, smoke in the air.

After months of leading up to the draft with the most reputable members of the media claiming that Orlando Magic was locked in on Jabari Smith Jr., suddenly that wasn’t the case. At the last minute, on on the morning of the draft, Banchero made a meteoric rise.

Let’s use DraftKings as an example here. Not only was Jabari Smith Jr. the outright favorite to go No. 1 overall as late as Draft Day Eve, Paolo Banchero was a whopping +1600 (meaning a less than 6% chance!) to take that honor. This despite near-unanimous agreement in the draft community that Banchero surpassed Smith Jr. as a view. There were gaps in athleticism, ball handling, playmaking skills and size between the two players despite similar heights. Shooting can only get you so far, as Smith found out.

By the time the 2022 NBA Draft actually started that night, Banchero was considered a formality to be No. 1 by the amorphous glob of intelligence represented by both the sportsbooks and the scoop gurus. And he did, making for a very happy Orlando Magic front office. Then the Duke product easily won Rookie of the Year, continuing to look like the far better down-the-road bet than his counterpart in Smith Jr. (which it must still be said is a promising youngster in his own right).

Why the history lesson? It doesn’t matter, really. Well, aside from speaking speculatively of course, it would have been pretty easy for someone with the knowledge, theoretically, to make a boatload of money out of this fiasco, hypothetically.

Now, 364 days later, on the day of the 2023 NBA Draft, there is another reason. That’s because it can happen again. Scoot Henderson, a true elite guard prospect, is -450 (82% implied) seven hours before the draft to go No. 2 overall to the Charlotte Hornets … after everyone went to bed Wednesday night with Alabama product Brandon Miller having similar odds. If history doesn’t repeat itself, it sure rhymes. (Insider trading on the draft certainly feels creepy, but all in all, it also feels like a pretty victimless crime.)

The difference is that in 2023 this late development affects the Brooklyn Nets! It all comes back to the Nets, always does, right?

Much of the pre-draft conversation around the district and surrounding area has centered on a potential trade with Portland Trail Blazers, owners of the #3 pick. Whether the potential trade involved sending Mikal Bridges to Portland for Scoot Henderson — however unlikely Brooklyn was ever to commit — or sending Damian Lillard to Brooklyn in an attempt to vault the Black and White back into contention, there is a clear reason for the two clubs to get on the horn.

But now? Well, Portland’s No. 3 pick certainly just took a hit in value. Brooklyn had no intention of prying it away from the City of Roses anyway, but now it’s hard to imagine a team in the league willing to meet the price the Blazers may have sought in the past. Not for Miller, the 6’9” forward with a checkered past. This brings us back to the Dame Game.

Judging by a recent interview with Michael Scotto, none of this ought to influence Lillard’s opinion on the situation in Portland.

“That [prospects] that I’ve seen are really talented,” said Lillard, who has reportedly attended every Blazers practice, even taking a few prospects out to dinner. “I think everybody that I’ve seen is considered a top seven pick. They all have the talent and the ability to do it. There’s hype around all of them. I don’t really get into whether this guy can do this or that.”

He even added that within the Blazer organization, he doesn’t “take a position of power, I think. If they ask me anything, I’ll give them the answer. I’ll tell them what I really think. I’m not in there to take a decision or something like that. I do my job. If something is presented to me or a question is asked of me, I give an honest answer.”

Sounds refreshing.

However, Brian Windhorst, who has become one of the most trusted national sources covering the NBA, said this on Draft Day morning: “Lillard has indicated, not behind the scenes, but on the record, that he does not want to play in a youth movement with a young player in a rebuild.”

“A judge could say … Lady Lillard, in her early 30s, who hasn’t had success the last couple of years, who asked them to go another way and they drafted anyway, they would tell him : ‘It’s time to go.’…Portland won’t admit this, but the rest of the league knows it.”

Now, Windhorst said all this before it became widely known that Henderson was no longer destined for the Pacific Northwest. On the one hand, Portland may be less incentivized to use the pick now that he’s unavailable. The Blazers’ front office could be more willing to part with the pick in search of a co-star alongside Lillard.

On the other hand, that pick will almost certainly land less valuable assets now, and selecting Brandon Miller when Portland already has two young guards in Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe doesn’t sound too bad either. It’s not like Miller can’t play.

But a Sharpe/Simons/Miller trio, however promising, may simply be too far out of contention to keep Lillard calm in Portland. This development could prompt Sean Marks to call Portland General Manager Joe Cronin about his star point guard again, just one day after Zach Lowe and Jonathan Givony reported Portland’s reluctance to give up Dame.

Just ask Marcus Smart and that Boston Celtics how quickly things can change: The NBA moves at warp speed this time of year, whether it’s projected draft picks or trades and non-trades. And to think, we’re still hours away from what should be a hectic 2023 NBA Draft.

Disclaimer: From February 2022 to January 2023 I worked for Sports Info Solutions in their NBA Draft department

Read more

Leave a Comment