Lottery luck eludes Nets, who pick third

Updated: May 19, 2010, 12:32 AM ET
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Well, John Wall won't be moving to New Jersey.

The Nets and their fan base had reasons to be excited heading into Tuesday night's NBA lottery. The team's bold new owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, was making his public debut as the face of the franchise. And the team had the best odds of securing the No. 1 pick in next month's draft.

But when NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver opened up the third-to-last envelope, and a Nets logo appeared on the card inside, the air went out of the team's figurative balloon before it was even fully inflated.

To add insult to injury, Northeast Corridor rivals Washington and Philadelphia were awarded the first two picks. One of them will certainly choose Wall, the dynamic young point guard out of Kentucky coveted across the board.

"It's a lottery. So, you know, if you were disappointed, you're setting yourself up for a fall," Nets president Rod Thorn said after the draft order was revealed. "We feel that whether we were first, second, third or fourth, we were gonna have the opportunity to draft a very good player, somebody who certainly could play in our rotation, if not be a starter.

"So we're just happy to be in a position that we can draft a player who can help us."

But again, it won't be Wall, who had a fantastic freshman season at Kentucky, averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. He is the consensus No. 1 pick, and adding a player like him would have made the Nets look much more attractive to potential free agents, particularly LeBron James.

[+] EnlargeMikhail Prokhorov
AP Photo/Bill KostrounTuesday's poor fortune didn't bring billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov down.

Picking third, the Nets will also likely miss out on Ohio State swingman Evan Turner, who some experts believe could be even better than Wall.

That leaves the Nets without a clear-cut choice on June 24. In his latest mock draft, ESPN.com expert Chad Ford has the Nets selecting Derrick Favors, a talented, 6-foot-9 power forward from Georgia Tech. But Favors is not a player who will turn around a franchise immediately.

"We haven't solidified at this time who we would take at this particular position," Thorn said. "So we've got a lot of work to do between now and the draft to figure out exactly who we'll take."

The Nets also still need to hire a new head coach. Lawrence Frank was fired in November after the team got off to an 0-16 start. General manager Kiki Vandeweghe filled in on an interim basis the rest of the way, but will not be back on the sideline for the 2010-11 season.

"We'll start the interviewing process shortly, and hopefully we'll have a coach in a timely fashion, but there is no set timetable," Thorn said.

The Nets are coming off a hellacious 12-70 campaign and have missed the playoffs the past two seasons, after six consecutive postseason appearances. They have two very good building blocks in point guard Devin Harris and center Brook Lopez, and some promising young role players like shooting guard Courtney Lee and small forwards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Terrence Williams. But much more help is needed.

The Nets were clearly hoping this would be a franchise-changing night. They've won the NBA lottery twice -- in 1990 (selecting Derrick Coleman), and again in 2000 (Kenyon Martin). But it didn't happen for them in 2010.

Nevertheless, their new owner was still optimistic -- brash, even -- after the draft sequence was revealed, repeating a prediction he made in a video message to fans earlier in the day.

"If everything goes as planned, I predict that next season we'll be in the playoff[s]," Prokhorov said. "And as [far as a] championship -- minimum in one year, maximum in five."

If only that was as easy as it sounds.

Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. He can be reached at kieran.d.darcy@espn.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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