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Why the Brooklyn Nets Were Doomed Long Before the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 23:  (L-R) Gerald Wallace #45 and Kris Humphries #43 of the New Jersey Nets look on from the bench in the closing minutes of their 105-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Prudential Center on April 23, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. Tonight's game is the last home game the Nets will play in New Jersey since the franchise will being moving to play at the Barclays Center in the New York City Borough of Brooklyn for the 2012-13 NBA season. starting in theNOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Rob MahoneyNBA Lead WriterNovember 20, 2016

The New Jersey Nets were a team plagued by self-destructive decision making, so it's only natural that the Brooklyn Nets will be birthed in the same cloud of masochism.

As of Wednesday night, the Nets' 2012 first-round pick—which fell to No. 6 overall—no longer belongs to them. The same is true of their first-round picks in 2011 (Enes Kanter), 2010 (Derrick Favors) and 2009 (Terrence Williams). Somehow, a rebuilding franchise has elected to forgo the actual rebuilding and instead hinge their future on Deron Williams' good graces and a series of nonsensical deals for marginal role players.

But Johan Petro will not bring a franchise to the promised land, and neither will recent-acquisition-turned-free-agent Gerald Wallace. Wallace is in a completely different class of player from many of the other Net mainstays, but he bears them no more value.

By trading its top three-protected first-round pick for a player capable of opting out of his contract at the end of the season, all New Jersey/Brooklyn did was a favor for another franchise. They're set to lose their most attractive asset, the player they acquired in trading it and, if things go along this same dismal trajectory, the potential franchise player they sacrificed so much to get.

It doesn't get much worse than that.

There's much to be excited about for a franchise with fresh, new duds playing in a crisp, clean arena in one of America's greatest cities, but this offseason of change for the Nets seems to hold all of the potential for turmoil without any real potential for rebirth.

Williams' decision—should he opt to stay—could change that outlook significantly. But with so little to tie him to a roster so lacking in promise, the Nets have put a lot of pressure on the attractiveness of their new market and their waffling star's desire for lucrative stability.

But Williams is a case to himself and, in so many ways, is distinct from the horrendous decision the Nets made at this year's trade deadline. I'd love to be able to trace the logic in the acquisition of Wallace, but even that task assumes there is logic in it at all.

That Brooklyn would invest so much in a functionally expiring player isn't a decision that could be defended in a kind of coherent argumentative framework; the Nets sacrificed something of value for the insanely temporary benefit of adding a player who made no impact on the bearing of the team. And at this point, there's no way to maneuver around their invisible gains at such incredible cost.

Wallace is a nice piece, but you don't give up high lottery picks for two months of value at the tail end of a lost season. You don't set your lottery picks on fire as you peddle the company line begging patience for a rebuild. You don't overstretch the impact of a city's allure, and you don't test the interests of your best player in every possible way.

You don't do what the Nets have done, lest you spend another half decade in the lottery reliving the lessons of the first.

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