Gerald Wallace may turn out to be everything Billy King and the Brooklyn Nets hoped, but right now the promise of what could have been stings.
By trading for Wallace, who played 16 games with the Nets in 2012, the Nets missed out on top prospects Damian Lillard and Harrison Barnes, who went six and seven, respectively, in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
Draft pundits had Lillard as the undisputed top point guard in the Draft, while Barnes had the potential to go as high as No. 2.
But despite having only four players under contract for the 2012-13 season, the Nets could only creep as high as No. 41 to take Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor.
Although Nets management has long made free agency this offseason’s priority, the team still needs players. Only MarShon Brooks, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, and Jordan Williams are currently under contract.
Lillard and Barnes can play too.
Lillard, the 6-foot-3 point Weber State product, went No. 6 to the Portland Trail Blazers. They occupied the Nets’ position vacated through the Wallace trade.
“I think the type of point guard that I am is becoming the way the point guards are in the NBA when you look at Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker,” Lillard said. “You se guys that score the ball really well but they get their teammates involved and they win games most importantly.”
Fittingly, Lillard is no stranger to going head to head with Deron Williams.
“Deron Williams, when he was in Utah, I caught him in a couple open gyms.”
Lillard finished as one of the top players in Big Sky history. He averaged 24.5 ppg in his final season at Weber State and earned his second Big Sky player of the year award.
Barnes, who played under Roy Williams at North Carolina, likely would have started in Wallace’s place next season. Barnes slid to the Golden State Warriors at No. 7.
His 6-foot-8 frame and ability to knock down shots fits the small forward position to a tee. Barnes will use his draft-day slide as motivation in the NBA.
“That will always be motivation,” Barnes said. “Just the fact that someone says they are better than you and they are drafted higher than you.”
The Nets also could have selected Connecticut center Andre Drummond to either groom or ship in a package for Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard.