Nets Lottery Retrospective (Part I)

Though many Nets fans are probably disappointed that the team didn’t draw the first or second pick in this summer’s draft – thereby hypothetically losing out on the John Wall/Evan Turner sweepstakes – nabbing the third pick is still an organizational rarity in that the team has only selected in the top three on three different occasions since the Draft Lottery system began in 1985.

With that said, as is the case with most NBA teams, the Nets have had a mixed bag of results with their draft lottery picks. To demonstrate just how random the lottery can be, and how scouting reports can differ drastically from actual results, I thought I would review how the Nets have done at each respective spot in the lottery rounds. So rather than obsessing about mid-round busts like Antoine Wright or Rex Walters,  I thought it would be better to rehash how the Nets have fared with picks that should be hypothetically be producing the best players. Here’s part I, and next week I’ll look at the remaining lottery picks.

With the first pick, the Nets select… Derrick Coleman (1990) and Kenyon Martin (2000): Both these names will probably get a rise out of Nets fans for different reasons.  Coming out of Syracuse in 1990, people believed DC had the physical gifts to be the next Karl Malone, but a combustible attitude to boot. And unfortunately, based on the high expectations, it was DC’s rotten attitude that won out. What seems lost is the fact that he was a near-automatic 20-10 guy every night he suited up for the Nets. Instead, his Nets legacy may be best defined for “Whoop de damned doo” and an unflattering Sports Illustrated cover that painted him as the face of what was wrong with professional athletes. Is that entirely fair? And did the Nets do wrong in selecting him? When you consider DC’s surrounding draft class, the only player who unquestionably had a better career was Gary Payton (picked #2). Kendall Gill, picked at #5, had a decent career for himself, but never demonstrated Coleman’s potential.  Also consider that Coleman still made one All-Star team with the Nets, and was selected to play for Dream Team II (a jersey I owned that’s lost in my parent’s basement somewhere I’m sure).  Hardly the next Karl Malone, but also not a bust though in hindsight, Payton would have been the better choice.

Kenyon Martin remains a fan favorite for the tenacity he brought to the back-to-back finals teams in 2002 and 2003. He was the National Player of Year his senior season at Cincinnati and despite breaking his leg before the Conference USA tournament, he was the consensus number one pick for a draft class that has since been reviled as one of the weakest in recent memory. He was an All-Star in 2004, which also happened to be his last season in New Jersey before he was given away for a pittance in a sign-and-trade with Denver. But despite the reported emotional impact of K-Mart’s departure, his troublesome knees makes it look like the Nets cut ties with him at the right time. While Martin never looked like a budding superstar, he was a solid enough player, and based on the surrounding draft class warranted the pick.

Final Verdict: While neither Coleman or K-Mart are Hall of Famers, they were both solid enough and are certainly not “busts” by any stretch. So Let’s say the Nets chose wisely here.

With the second pick, the Nets select…  Kenny Anderson (1991): Like Coleman, Kenny Anderson’s career may be best defined by what he never achieved. An elite point guard prospect out of Georgia Tech, Anderson spent his rookie season on the bench behind Mookie Blaylock (more on him later), before emerging as the starter in his second season. He was growing into a real star before a cheap shot by the Knicks John Starks derailed his sophomore campaign. But Anderson responded by improving in his third season, averaging 18.8 points and 9.6 assists and making his first all-star game (with Derrick Coleman). But then his Nets career started to slip off the rails from there. His production went down the following season, and he was getting saddled with the same reports of a bad attitude as DC. And just like that, he was shipped out to Charlotte for Kendall Gill. When you look at players selected after him, Dikembe Mutombo (4) had a more consistent career and was one of the league’s ambassadors for years. Some other notable names like Billy Owens (3) and Steve Smith (5) had nice careers, though I can’t say that they would have been better choices than Anderson.

Final Verdict: Again, like DC and K-Mart, Anderson never realized his potential, but he was the smart choice at the time, and in retrospect, he did well enough in New Jersey to avoid the “bust” tag.

With the third pick, the Nets select… Dennis Hopson (1987): Evan Turner fans beware… coming out of Ohio State, Hopson was ballyhooed as an all-around wingman, who could shoot, score, pass and rebound.  But injuries and lack of production cut short Hopson’s career in NJ after three seasons, and he only lasted five seasons total in the NBA. And this is where it gets ugly… look who was selected after Hopson: Scottie Pippen (5), Kevin Johnson (7), Horace Grant (10), Reggie Miller (11), Mark Jackson (18), Reggie Lewis (22). There are some Hall of Famers and top 50 players on that list. Nets fans can only hope that there isn’t any kind of curse connected to their No. three pick.

Final Verdict: Bust. I mean, could you imagine a team built around Scottie Pippen, Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson in the early 90s?

With the fourth pick, the Nets select… Chris Morris (1988): In the late 1980s, the Nets looked to be cornering the market on athletic wings who seemingly underperformed in the NBA. Like Hopson, Chris Morris came out of college as a scorer first, and while he averaged between 11 and 15 ppg during his seven years in New Jersey, his only All-Star appearance was as part of the slam dunk competition in 1989. He was a nice enough complimentary player, but towards the end of his time in New Jersey, he was increasingly unhappy. He may be best known for writing “Trade Me” and “Please” on the back of his sneakers during his final season. Looking at players picked after Mo, Mitch Richmond (5), Hersey Hawkins (6) and Thunder Dan Majerle (14) all looked to be better choices in retrospect.

Final Verdict: Bust. I would be more than happy if a guy like Terrence Williams could evolve into the kind of scorer Chris Morris was in his Nets career, but in the same vein, Mitch Richmond would have looked much nicer in a Nets uniform if they were looking to collect wings.

Coming next week… how have the Nets fared with their remaining lottery picks? How do the words Ed O’Bannon and passing on Kobe Bryant strike you?