EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The New Jersey Nets are heading into the NBA Draft having taken much of the uncertainty out of the event.
While they will have the 27th and 36th picks Thursday night, the Nets made their big move four months ago when they dealt guard Devin Harris, power forward Derrick Favors — the third pick overall last year — and two first-round picks to the Utah Jazz for All Star point guard Deron Williams.
The deal came just days after the Nets lost the trade war for Carmelo Anthony, and it gave owner Mikhail Prokhorov a much-needed drawing card for next season and 2012, when the team plans to move to a new arena in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The deal also worked out for Utah. The Nets' pick this year turned into the No. 3 choice overall through the luck of the lottery.
The draft will help New Jersey add depth. General manager Billy King is looking for player with athletic ability, length and mental toughness for Avery Johnson's second season as coach.
"I don't expect whoever we pick at 27 to be playing big minutes for us," King said. "If he is, it's a pleasant surprise. But I look at 27 being somebody that's going to have to earn his way into the rotation."
The Nets have had about 30 players work out of the past two weeks and they have narrowed the field. Among the players who might interest them are power forwards Trey Thompkins of Georgia, JuJuan Johnson of Purdue and Justin Harper of Richmond, small forwards Kyle Singler of Duke and Tyler Honeycutt of UCLA and guards Iman Shumpert of Georgia Tech and Andrew Goudelock of Charleston.
"We have about four kids in mind and I think one of the four will definitely be there when we draft," King said.
Depending on what happens with a new collective bargaining agreement, New Jersey will have $18 million and $22 million to spend on free agency to fill other holes.
The Nets are heading into the draft with several players unsigned. Power forward Kris Humphries, who had a breakout season, is a free agent along with shooting guard Sasha Vujacic, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers.
"From the minute we started the workouts until now, our mindset has always stayed the same," King said. "We don't want to put ourselves in a box, thinking we're looking for a big guy, then we might miss on a good point guard."
This is one of those draft where opinions on players vary.
"I think this draft has a chance to have a player drafted 17 or 18 who turns out better than one drafted No. 4 or 5," King said. "That's just the way this draft can play out."
King said the Nets will entertain trade talks, but with low picks there isn't a lot they can do.
"When you win 24 games, you need a lot," he said. "We'll consider anything."