To celebrate a bit of Nets history, we at The Brooklyn Game decided to take a look at who we thought were the 30 best Nets of all time. Two current players made the list (you can guess who), but other than that we reached back through ABA and NBA history to remember Nets greats.
However, like any subjective list, there’s always room for debate. Here’s three questions we had to answer.
1. NetsRank: Who’s Overrated?
- Justin DeFeo: Something about living through the “Devin Harris Era” and seeing him at #22 strikes me as peculiar. Harris is a nice player, no doubt, and he was in the precarious position of having to follow in the footsteps of a future Hall of Famer, but I was never sold on Harris the point guard and felt his years in New Jersey were lacking impact.
- Andrew Gnerre: Rod Thorn. Yes, every GM has some misses peppered among their resume. And yes, the NBA draft is an impossible bedfellow. And right, he put together the Finals teams that have come to define Nets success. But number six is too high for the man who drafted Zoran Planinić. I won’t even bemoan him for missing out on players that were still available (Carlos Delfino, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Matt Bonner, Keith Bogans!), because the bottom of the draft is clearly unpredictable nonsense that Nate Silver couldn’t even navigate. But just don’t pick Zoran Planinić. (Although, he could have drafted Travis Outlaw, who was selected by Portland immediately following Zoran, and gotten that whole situation out of their system seven years earlier.) Between 2001 and 2007, the Nets had 14 draft picks, the net result of which was Nenad and Brian Scalabrine. In those years of playoff runs, they really could have used some players who, you know, were NBA players.
- Benjamin Nadeau: Don’t have to look much further than two people tied together for their hand in the ugly 2009-10 season: Devin Harris and Lawrence Frank. Harris was supposed to be the next franchise point guard after the Nets finally allowed Jason Kidd to chase his ring dreams in Dallas, but I just didn’t see those years of service from Harris (on increasingly terrible Nets teams) as a worthy 22 rank. As for Frank, the only good thing to his name, truly, are four playoff appearances. In how many other franchises would that even be notable? Although he unfairly took most of the blame for the record-breaking beginning to the 2009 season, you’d can’t be high on a “Best Of” List when you’re going to be remembered forever as a loser.
2. NetsRank: Who’s Underrated?
- DeFeo: You can make a strong case for Derrick Coleman to crack the Nets top 10 of all-time, so though I don’t think he’s woefully misrepresented at 15, I do think D.C. should be a few notches higher. Attitude aside, Coleman was the focal point of three different Nets playoff teams, was the NBA Rookie of the Year, and a two-time all NBA selection as a Nets player.
- Gnerre: My heart tells me to go with Anthony Morrow (who I’ve spent plenty of space on this site professing my love for) or Boki Nachbar who was the best. But instead I’ll cede my time to a player I’ve never heard of until today: George Johnson. This guy is the Nets franchise leader in blocks! Who knew! He played for New Jersey from 1977-1980, then again for the 1984-85 season. In those four seasons, he notched a gaudy 863 blocks, 167 ahead of Nets career leader in games and minutes, Buck Williams. So c’mon, let’s get Big George Swat-A-Lot on the list!
- Nadeau: Richard Jefferson, for some reason. I have a strong attachment to Jefferson: his jersey was the first I ever owned. Jefferson is the franchise’s 3rd leading scorer and helped spark the back-to-back NBA Finals squads. Jefferson was consistent and reliable for the majority of his Nets tenure and formed, in my opinion, the original NBA big three: Kidd, Carter and Jefferson. I think I cried the day we traded him to Milwaukee. And that’s that.
- DeFeo: Jason Kidd should be #1. At the risk of sounding ignorant, it’s the ABA vs. NBA argument that does it for me. Erving’s accomplishments cannot be downplayed and shouldn’t be ignored, but his Nets days came when they were a part of the ABA. Kidd’s brilliance came from his taking a once-laughable Nets squad through the perils and nearly to the top of the modern NBA mountain. You can’t go wrong with either choice, but in my own personal criteria, Kidd gets the nod every time.
- Gnerre:Yes. This is simple. Maybe I sound ignorant, but the ABA means nothing to me. I get that the dude was incredible and won the franchise its only titles, but who even knows what was going on back then. Also, if we’re comparing two guys who each left a bad taste in our collective mouth by how they left, I’ll side with the guy who left Jersey like a true Net: deciding that the franchise was poorly run and fan base not spirited enough, then faking a migraine to force his way out. The departure alone is the stuff of Nets legend. Add in the two Finals appearances and you’ve got yourself the GOAT.
- Nadeau: Right call. Admittedly, Kidd was the reason I became a Nets fan in 2001. No slight on Doctor J, but when I think of the Nets, I think of Jason Kidd. When I think of Julius Erving, I think of the Sixers. When Kidd moved to Dallas, I became a Mavericks fan on the side — and ecstatic to see him win a ring.