June 14, 2023 | 18:52
The NBA Finals are over. That means the 2023 NBA Draft is coming up.
Brooklyn has three picks in the June 22 draft, including back-to-back first-rounders.
Almost without fail since taking over the Nets, general manager Sean Marks has been active on or before draft night, and this year appears to be no exception.
But despite all that activity, he’s never had a lottery to work with.
Could that be about to change?
After a potential pursuit of Portland superstar Damian Lillard dominated headlines, now comes news that the Nets are exploring the possibility of moving both of those picks — Nos. 21 and 22 — to move up in the first round.
ESPN reported that Brooklyn was looking into “packing both picks and going into the late lottery or middle first round.”
That seems like a tall order with the 21st and 22nd picks, but the Nets could always add another sweetener, like a future second-rounder, a player or even cash.
The Nets have $2.4 million in cash considerations remaining they can use in any trade completed before July 1, which would increase to $5.9 million in any trade thereafter.
There can be several reasons for the desire to move in the draft.
While sources have told The Post that Brooklyn’s interest in Lillard is “genuine,” there are no indications yet that the Trail Blazers are willing to move him.
And Lillard himself has stated that his preference is to stay in Portland if they can get him a star candidate, and All-Star Bradley Beal just became available.
Zion Williamson may soon be as well, with the Blazers holding the No. 3 pick.
In addition, the league’s front office staff has suggested that this draft is 1) far better than next year’s projected to be; 2) set to be filled with trading activity; and 3) doesn’t have that much of a difference between the talent at the bottom of the first round and the better prospects expected to go undrafted, ie. the talent from 20-70.
If Brooklyn has identified a talent or talents moving up in the middle of the first round and ends up not spending capital on Lillard (or another star), it would be logical to at least examine the cost of moving up for said prospects.
After dealing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets’ 13-15 losing record the rest of the regular season and first round of the postseason showed they were in desperate need of shot creation and upgraded guard play.
People like Michigan’s Kobe Bufkin, Indiana’s Jalen Hood-Schifino, Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr. and Kentucky’s Cason Wallace are all combo guards who fit the bill, projected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round, while Baylor’s Keyonte George and Jordan Hawkins of reigning national champion Connecticut are shooting guards who could be challenging to land if Brooklyn is at a standstill.
Anyone could conceivably fall to the Nets at No. 21. But one player often linked to Brooklyn in the earlier stages of the draft process — 18-year-old Bilal Coulibaly — almost seems long gone by then.
The French winger played alongside generational talent Victor Wembanyama at the Metropolitans’ 92, and while his playoff performances have prevented him from coaching stateside, they’ve been impressive enough to see him skyrocket in mock drafts out of the 20s, where the Nets holds up.
At least where they currently live. Apparently that could change.
The Nets announced the debut of the “Something to Prove” podcast, a five-episode series hosted by Bill Raftery that will look back on their runs to back-to-back NBA Finals in 2002 and ’03.
Alongside Raftery, the podcast will feature interviews with broadcasters Ian Eagle, Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw, and ex-Nets from the era including Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, Jason Collins and others. The first episode will be published on Thursday.