EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — With the NBA draft out of the way and some holes seemingly plugged, president and general manager Rod Thorn and the New Jersey Nets are turning their attention to the free agency market.
Less than a day after the draft, Thorn felt the league-worst Nets got two key pieces by taking power forward Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech with the third pick overall and acquiring the rights to small forward Damion James (No. 24 overall) from Atlanta for two other draft picks.
Next on the agenda is July 1, and the long-awaited free agency signing period. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh might all be available, and the Nets are ready to put $27 million on the table as enticement.
"We expect to be players and we expect to be in the mix," Thorn said Friday. "Hopefully, it will work out and we will be successful. Until you get out there, you don't know."
Thorn said it was impossible to say how many free agents he would be able to sign for new coach Avery Johnson or how much of new owner Mikhail Prokhorov's money he would spend.
"You don't know who is going to be available and, No. 2, you don't know who you are likely to get," Thorn said.
The Nets have plenty of roster space. They dealt out-of-favor guard Chris Douglas-Roberts to Milwaukee on Friday for a second-round draft pick in 2012.
Before making the trade for a player who wanted out, the Nets picked up the $854,839 option on Douglas-Roberts' contract for next season.
That left only eight players on the roster.
Thorn already has had conversations with some of the players who were not drafted on Thursday night.
"We obviously have an opening at point guard," Thorn said of a backup for Devin Harris. "We have an opening for a big guy. We very likely will sign a point guard and center-type guy within the next week."
Thorn said the draft could not have gone better for New Jersey, which posted a franchise-worst 12-70 mark last season.
Favors, who will turn 19 next month, is a very athletic power forward who has a chance to develop into an outstanding power forward.
"He is a work in progress on the offensive end of the court," Thorn said of Favors. "He needs seasoning and needs to work there. He should get stronger. He should be 6-10 and 260 at the end of the day, and he is going to be a real stud looking guy, physically. If he continues to work and mature, our feeling is everything will be real good."
The Nets didn't expect James to be around when the draft got into the 20s, so they packaged the rights to the 27th and 31st picks — Xavier guard Jordan Crawford and German center Tibor Pleiss — to grab the Texas forward.
"He is a good defensive player," Thorn said of James. "He rebounds, he averaged in double figures in rebounds in his last three years at Texas. He shoots the ball reasonably well. He is a well-rounded player who is a tough kid."
Most experts think James might be ready to contribute sooner than Favors.
"We'll have to see about that," Thorn said. "Most guys like Wesley Johnson or Ekpe Udoh or Damian James, who spent more time in college, you would assume would be more ready to play than most 18-year-old kids. But that's something we'll see."