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Nets lose No. 3 pick to Rockets via James Harden deal; Here’s what comes next

The NBA Draft lottery in Chicago left many Nets fans sucking their teeth.

The Atlanta Hawks, a team that qualified for the league’s Play-In Tournament with a 36-46 record in the Eastern Conference this season, emerged as the biggest winners and will be on the clock first at Barclays Center on June 26. They had just a three percent chance of securing the No. 1 pick entering Sunday afternoon.

The Washington Wizards (15-67) will pick second, followed by the Houston Rockets (41-41), and that is where the latest outpour of frustration in Brooklyn emanates from.

The Nets went 32-50 this season, missed the playoffs and just hired a first-year head coach in Jordi Fernandez. Houston’s No. 3 pick was originally theirs. However, general manager Sean Marks relinquished control of the pick in the James Harden deal in 2021, the same year where he sent Sekou Doumbouya and an unprotected 2024 second-round pick to the Rockets, leaving the Nets without any picks this year.

Back then, Marks probably figured those 2024 picks would not have much value. After all, a core trio of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving was supposed to compete for championships indefinitely. It was an ideal situation on paper. They were supposed to stay together. But fans are well aware of why that situation fell apart and hindsight is always 20/20.

Nets fans knew a major payment for the Harden deal was imminent but after an awful 2023-24 campaign that saw the team finish with the ninth-worst record in the NBA, not having the draft capital to replenish the roster with younger, cheaper talent is a frustrating reality. It stings even more considering the first-round pick Houston controls had just a 20.3% chance to move into the top-three.

What worsens matters is that Brooklyn has already seen where this road could lead. The Boston Celtics and the Portland Trail Blazers both drafted elite talent in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Damian Lillard with draft capital that the Nets traded away. This year’s draft projects to be one of the weakest in recent memory, but a few diamonds will surely emerge from the rough, and Brooklyn finds itself completely out of the mix for now.

Marks reportedly had an opportunity to rectify the situation. According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, the Nets rejected a deal proposed by the Rockets in January that would have swapped the remaining picks given to Houston in the Harden deal for the Phoenix Suns picks owned by the Nets through the Durant deal.

Along with the Nets’ first and second-round picks this year, Houston also controls Brooklyn’s first-round pick in 2026 and has the right to swap picks in 2025 and 2027. Meanwhile, Brooklyn owns Phoenix’s unprotected first-round picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and has the right to swap picks in 2028.

There were also reports that Marks rejected an offer from Houston around the February trade deadline that would have gotten back this year’s pick, others from the Harden deal and a blossoming star in Jalen Green in exchange for Mikal Bridges. It was reported at the time that the Nets viewed Bridges as an untouchable asset that they wanted to build with.

While Sunday’s draft lottery revelation was certainly uncomfortable for Nets fans, it is not all doom and gloom. Again, this year’s draft is supposed to be weak. There is no consensus No. 1 prospect as of today and it would not be too surprising if multiple teams want to move out of their current draft position as the draft process matures. If Brooklyn does become infatuated with a certain prospect, there is likely a deal that could be pursued to trade into the draft. Marks, speaking to reporters after Fernandez’s introductory news conference last month, said fans should not rule out the idea of Brooklyn acquiring a first-round pick, or any pick, in June.

Ironically, one team that may be looking to make a deal on draft day is none other than the Rockets. Houston appears to be in win-now mode and some NBA insiders believe it could be looking to trade the No. 3 pick for a veteran player that could aid in its ascension.

With that said, perhaps the Nets and Rockets revisit negotiations regarding a deal centered around Bridges come June. Crazier things have happened. The timing may be better for both teams at this point.


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