It wouldn’t be a typical draft night for the Brooklyn Nets unless General Manager Billy King made a big trade. This may not rise to the level of what he did two years ago when he made the blockbuster deal with the Boston Celtics, but it involved a player drafted on that night.
The Nets traded Mason Plumlee and the draft rights to guard/forward Pat Connaughton, to the Portland Trail Blazers for the draft rights to forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and veteran guard Steve Blake.
King said of the trade, “We are very excited to add Rondae to our roster. He is the type of athletic wing we were looking for, and we felt he was the best defensive player in the draft.”
King said of Plumlee, “I also wanted to thank Mason for his time with the Nets and wish him the best with his new team. Mason worked extremely hard from the first time he stepped on the court in training camp last year, and I am sure he will have a long and successful career.”
Plumlee was chosen with the 22nd pick in the 2013 Draft out of Duke. He played in 152 games, including 67 starts, and he posted averages of 8.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game. Plumlee earned All-Rookie First Team honors in 2014. He mostly came off the bench in his rookie season, 2013-14, but made his mark in the staring lineup in March when the Nets made their playoff push.
Heading into his sophomore season, Plumlee was expected to become the primary backup center after the departure of Andray Blatche. Instead, Head Coach Lionel Hollins barely played Plumlee in the first six weeks, opting to go with journeyman Jerome Jordan instead. In December, Plumlee was put into the starting lineup when Brook Lopez suffered an injury and he excelled. He stayed in the starting lineup until late February when it became apparent that Lopez was back to his old self, pouring in 20 points and 10 rebounds a night no matter the opponent, whereas Plumlee was useless against tough competition. Plumlee saw less and less time as the season came to a close, barely playing at all in the series against the Hawks.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a 6’8”, 220-pound forward, was selected with the 23rd pick by the Trail Blazers before being dealt to the Nets. He played two seasons at Arizona and helped lead the Wildcats to two Elite Eight appearances and a 66-9 regular season record. As a freshman, Hollis-Jefferson averaged 9.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game in 38 games, six of which were starts, en route to Pac 12 All-Freshman Team honors. In his second and final season at Arizona, Hollis-Jefferson posted averages of 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.8 blocks in 28.7 minutes per game in 38 games, including 25 starts. He was named to the All-Pac 12 First Team and garnered Pac-12 All-Defensive Team honors.
Steve Blake, 6’3”, 172-pound point guard, is a 12-year veteran who has appeared in 812 career games, with 345 starts, with Washington, Portland, Milwaukee, Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State. He holds career averages of 6.7 points and 4.0 assists. Last season in Portland, Blake recorded averages of 4.3 points and 3.6 assists in 18.9 minutes per game in 81 games off the Trail Blazers’ bench.
Hollis-Jefferson addressed the media after he was drafted by Portland, and he said, “I’m really excited to be here. I’m looking forward to this press conference, looking forward to being in Portland. It’s a great experience to be here. It’s a great experience to be drafted. I’m a little nervous at first, all the names called before me, but I’m just happy to be here, and God has a plan for everyone, and I believe this is in my plan.”
He brought 40 kids up from his hometown of Chester, PA, for the Draft and he said of how that all came about, “Well, I’m a big community guy and I wanted my people where I’m from, the tri‑state area, to experience it and see what it was like to be a part of that. I talked to my family and my people, the close ones that I’m closest to about bringing some kids up to the Draft and let them get that experience and see how it is, and they were all for it. I talked to my agency, and it just happened to work out like that. We had the kids do essays about their life goals and their aspirations and what they want to be, and it turned out well. 100‑some kids filled out the essay; 40 of them won, and it was great.”