Nets Yearbook: Ranking The Shooting Guards

Nets Yearbook: Ranking The Shooting Guards

In the spirit of Mark’s look at the franchise’s top 5 point guards of all time, in this edition of Nets Yearbook I’ll take a look at the top 5 shooting guards.

5. Otis Birdsong

Regular season (per-game numbers in parenthesis): 375 G, 317 GS, 5,968 points (15.9), 941 rebounds (2.5), 1,361 assists (3.6), 427 steals (1.1), .499 FG%, .267 3P%, .591 FT%, 14.5 PER

Playoffs: 16 G, 249 points (15.6), 40 rebounds (2.5), 60 assists (3.8), 29 steals (1.8), .438 FG%, .000 3P%, .536 FT% 11.4 PER

A former #2 overall pick, the Nets acquired Birdsong in 1981 in a sign-and-trade, and he more or less held down the starting position until the Nets waived him in 1988. Birdsong called the three certainties in life “death, taxes, and my jump shot,” and he wasn’t wrong – Birdsong shot over 50% in four of his seven seasons in New Jersey, leading the Nets in scoring twice despite suffering a fractured pelvis, broken shooting hand, and multiple injuries to his right knee and leg.

Fun fact: When the Nets traded for Birdsong In 1981, he became the first guard in NBA history to earn $1 million in a season.

4. Kerry Kittles

Regular season: 496 G, 455 GS, 7,096 points (14.3), 1,951 rebounds (3.9), 1,275 assists (2.6), 803 steals (1.6), 614 turnovers (1.2), .439 FG%, .378 3P%, .781 FT%, 15.9 PER

Playoffs: 54 G, 664 points (12.3), 195 rebounds (3.6), 116 assists (2.1), 87 steals (1.6), 52 turnovers (0.96), .424 FG%, .337 3P%, .742 FT%, 15.4 PER
A lifelong Net – I’m not counting his 11-game stint with the Clippers in his final season – Kittles made his mark as an excellent spot-up shooter and defender. Kittles is one of the rare players who amassed more steals than turnovers in every season of his career, a testament to his excellent hands on defense as well as his career-long lack of ball-handling duties. His game didn’t have many dimensions, but the eerily consistent Kittles played a key role in the Nets semi-dynasty from 2001-2003.

3. Vince Carter

Regular Season: 374 G, 369 GS, 8,834 points (23.6), 2,152 rebounds (5.8), 1,762 assists (4.7), 435 steals (1.2), .447 FG%, .370 3P%, .809 FT%, 21.0 PER

Playoffs: 27 G, 701 points (26.0), 193 rebounds (7.1), 145 assists (5.4), 40 steals (1.5), .419 FG%, .313 3P%, .767 FT%, 21.0 PER

There are a lot of people in this world who don’t like Vince Carter. They say he’s lazy, he doesn’t care about the game, he’s soft, he has no heart, and no motivation, and that after every game he sneaks away to his car and chokes puppies. I don’t know if they’re right. I don’t have an all-access pass to his brain or car. All I know is that for a little over four-and-a-half seasons with New Jersey, VC scored 8,834 points, shot 37% from deep, dunked on too many big men to count… and left the Nets without ever getting past the second round of the playoffs.

He had some great games, and a few terrible ones. I’ll never forget being in Continental Airlines Arena for Game 6 of the 2007 Eastern Semis, when Vince scored just 11 points, shot 4-11, and turned the ball over five times. As we were all walking out, a group of fans started chanting “TRADE V-C! TRADE V-C!” at the top of their lungs. I couldn’t blame them.

But I’ll also never forget watching him eviscerate Toronto twice – the first time with one buzzer-beater, and the second time with two. I’ll never forget how calmly he drained a 30-foot buzzer beater against Atlanta, in a game that the Nets trailed by 20 in the first half. I’ll never forget how oddly vindicating it felt to watch him smash on Alonzo Mourning shortly after Mourning trashed the franchise.

Then again.

(…and again.)

I won’t romanticize Vince’s career with New Jersey – he had some great years here, but wasn’t a franchise-alterer. I will say that he made the Nets wildly exciting to watch when he first landed, clearly rejuvenated after his troublesome time in Toronto. He had a phenomenal playoff run the next year, carrying the Nets to the second round, but Shaq and Wade were just too formidable a combo. The Nets didn’t stand a chance.

Vince had a series of up-and-down years with the Nets, a testament to his career, but I will say that the fans who say he’s never had heart didn’t watch him closely in 2008-09. In that year, he played with purpose night in and night out.

(Of course, that purpose was to get traded to a team that’d win more than 12 games without him. Didn’t work out so well for either side.)

Post-retirement, his career will spark the next great “is he a Hall of Famer?” discussion. I’ve always thought Vince’s career was more misunderstood than mercurial. Don’t get me wrong — there’s no excuse for his lack of professionalism, and his career certainly hasn’t gone as planned. But I’m not focusing on what he wasn’t, just what he was. And for now, based solely on his record of accomplishment, he’s — at the very least — the third-best shooting guard in Nets history.

2. Drazen Petrovic

You know there is a saying that we have about JFK, John F. Kennedy -“You know Johnny we never got to know you.” And I kind of feel that way about Drazen. I felt that the whole year that I was with him went by too fast and I really never got to know him the way I would have liked to.

-Chuck Daly

Regular season: 195 G, 149 GS, 3,798 points (19.5), 540 rebounds (2.8), 565 assists (2.9), 236 steals (1.2), .511 FG%, .437 3P%, .846 FT%, 16.5 PER

Playoffs: 9 G, 175 points (19.4), 19 rebounds (2.1), 22 assists (2.4), 6 steals (0.7), .500 FG%, .333 3P%, .818 FT%, 10.6 PER

I barely missed the Drazen boat – the first basketball games I remember were in the 1994-95 season, shortly after his passing. Tragedy reduced my experience with the man to stat sheets, old footage, and documentaries. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel underqualified to write about a man who meant so much not only to this team on the floor, but to an entire country immersed in conflict watching from afar. If Chuck Daly barely knew him, I never stood a chance.

There are some unquestionable truths about him. If nothing else, Drazen was a worker. When Vlade Divac spoke of Petrovic in Once Brothers, he described him as someone who lived and breathed basketball. Guys on the Yugoslavian national team would talk about music, they’d talk about movies, and Drazen would always bring it back to the game. It was just his nature. Danny Ainge recalled a nap he took on Drazen’s couch after a first of two-a-day practices, only to wake up and see Drazen riding a stationary bike. The word relentless doesn’t do him justice.

Vince’s numbers are better, but Drazen’s impact on the franchise and the league far outstrips VC’s. On the court, Petrovic made his mark as a supremely innovative offensive player, a dead-eye shooter, and one of the fiercest competitors the NBA has seen. Off the court, He was a major part of basketball’s globalization, helping to secure a route for players from eastern Europe to the United States.

We’ll never know what he’d become, but who he was will never be forgotten. Now I’ll let Mark say the rest.

1. Julius Erving

Regular season (ABA): 252 G, 7,104 points (28.2), 2,738 rebounds (10.9), 1319 assists (5.2), 583 steals (2.3), 521 blocks (2.1), 26.8 PER

Playoffs (ABA): 32 G, 978 points (30.6), 348 rebounds (10.9), 159 assists (5.0), 52 steals (1.6), 54 blocks (1.7), .518 FG%, .273 3P%, .789 FT%, 26.7 PER

Dr. J could be classified as a shooting guard or small forward, but for the sake of reducing his position to an archaic model, I’ll say he’s a 2. I won’t say much more: his three ABA MVP’s, two ABA championships as the best player on the floor, overall record, legend, dunks, and afro all speak for themselves. I’ll let J.M. Poulard of WarriorsWorld reminds us why The Doctor is truly on his own island of impact:

Erving was not only the face of the ABA, but he was its guardian, ambassador and savior. A league that once struggled to draw crowds was able to get fans to come to games whenever the Doctor was in the building. Some would argue that Julius Erving not only saved the ABA, but he helped bring attention to other great players as well.

The greatest.