NBA Draft 2011: Grading the Nets' Last Decade of First Round Draft Picks
With the 2011 NBA Draft rapidly approaching, I decided to take a look at the New Jersey Nets' recent track record of first round picks.
What I found was a mix of abysmal and brilliant picks that often shaped what direction the franchise was headed.
Unfortunately, poor drafting from 2002-2007 most definitely helped elongate the rebuilding process for the team (see Viktor Khryapa).
However, the Nets have been on a hot streak, so to speak, and hopefully they can keep it up this year with the 27th pick.
Here is a quick evaluation of the Nets' last ten years of selections.
2000 #1: Kenyon Martin
The grade may seem slightly high here when you take into account Martin's rather mediocre career, but not when you take a look at who else the Nets could have chosen.
The next two picks in the draft? Darius Miles and Stromile Swift.
The 2000 NBA draft was one of the weakest in history, and the Nets lucked out by selecting Martin.
Averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds in his four season with the Nets, Martin helped the Nets reach their only two NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.
Alongside Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, and Richard Jefferson, Martin added the defensive prowess that turned the Nets into contenders.
2001 #7: Eddie Griffin
The Nets get another strong mark here for immediately trading Griffin on draft day for the rights to Jason Collins, Richard Jefferson, and Brandon Armstrong.
All three of these players made significant contributions during the Nets' few seasons as contenders.
Eddie Griffin, on the other hand, never averaged more than 8 PPG in his four years in the league, before being waived by the Timberwolves in 2007.
Griffin died tragically later that year.
The Nets don't get an A here simply because of who else they could have drafted with that pick, namely Joe Johnson. They did make up for it by drafting Brian Scalabrine at #35, perhaps one of the biggest draft day steals of all time.
2002 #24: Nenad Krstic
Nenad Krstic didn't exactly light it up as a Net, averaging about 11 PPG in four injury riddled seasons. Yet his career has fared considerably better than those also picked late in the first round.
To nobody's surprise, the Nets' demise began when Krstic was inserted down low as their primary frontcourt scorer.
Unfortunately, the Nets were looking for talent down low in a draft pool where there really wasn't much to be found.
However, the next highest big man selected was Carlos Boozer at No. 35. The Nets have to kick themselves every time they look through the draft results.
2003 #22: Zoran Planinic
Maybe the Nets got Euro-fever after drafting Kristic, or maybe they just couldn't resist drafting a 6'7" combo guard with range.
Either way, Planinic averaged 4 points and an assist per game for four years before being bought out in 2006.
Players drafted immediately after Zoran include Carlos Delfino and Kendrick Perkins. Oops.
But hey, how many other players can say they hit a 77-foot buzzer beater?
2004 # 22: Viktor Khryapa
Viktor won a few titles in Russia, but not even the starting job in the NBA
Nothing to see here, just another European senselessly drafted for no other reason than he is tall and can shoot. At least they traded him to the Portland Trailblazers for Eddie Gill, who appeared in 11 total games over three seasons with the team.
Who knows, maybe it was a coin flip between Khryapa and Sasha Vujacic? There's nothing shameful about losing a coin flip.
However, there is something shameful about overlooking Vujacic, Kevin Martin, Tony Allen, and Anderson Varejao.
2005 #15: Antoine Wright
There is nothing excusable about this pick. Wright, the perennial role player, was drafted ahead of Danny Granger, Gerald Green, Hakeem Warick, and David Lee.
The most action Wright ever saw in three season with the Nets came while Richard Jefferson landed on the disabled list. In almost 30 MPG, Wright posted a measly 8 points per contest.
2006 #22,23: Marcus Williams, Josh Boone
Nothing says successful draft like two back-to-back selections that did not last five years in the NBA.
Yet, to be fair, maybe the Nets panicked when Rajon Rondo was taken at No. 21.
But it doesn't really look that way. Here were two teammates that just helped UCONN win the NCAA tournament. Why not draft them both?
I can think of a few reasons. Shannon Brown and Kyle Lowry were still on the board, Marcus Williams had well-known maturity issues, and Josh Boone tried to mask his lack of basketball ability with his dreadlocks.
Granted, the Nets wanted a power forward in a draft dominated by guards, but there was never really any hope in Josh Boone.
2007 #17: Sean Williams
The failed first round picks keep coming. At this point, is it any wonder the Nets are one of the worst teams in the league?
Sean Williams almost lasted two seasons as an energy-type reserve before being arrested for disorderly conduct and falling out of the rotation.
Notable players drafted immediately after Williams? Marco Belinelli, Jared Dudley, Wilson Chandler, Rudy Fernandez, Aaron Afflalo.
2008 #10,#21: Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson
In an interesting turn of events, the Nets made two very solid selections, including one that may be the center of their franchise moving forward.
True, skilled centers are hard to come by these days, and the Nets did not miss a beat in drafting Brook Lopez. In only three seasons, Lopez has matured into a 20-point scorer and one of the elite centers in the league.
Anderson also showed promise, but was unfortunately traded to the Orlando Magic in 2009 along with Vince Carter. He has seemingly found his niche in Orlando and has a promising career ahead of him.
2009 #11: Terrence Williams
The Nets get the benefit of the doubt on this one. The scouting report on Terrence Williams was 'can play point-forward with tremendous court vision and athletic ability'.
All of that is certainly true, as Williams notched his first career triple-double during his sophomore season and showed signs of great potential.
What the scouting report did not mention, however, was his lazy work ethic, complete lack of maturity, and obsession with Twitter, all of which landed him in Avery Johnson's doghouse and then deep on the Houston Rocket's bench.
2010 #3, 24: Derrick Favors, Damion James
While it was common knowledge that the Sixers would take Evan Turner with the second pick, nobody quite knew for sure who the Nets would select with the third overall pick.
The raw Derrick Favors with tons of upside? Or the more NBA ready but troubled DeMarcus Cousins?
It did not take long to see that Favors was the better choice, as scouts basically salivated over his potential. He became an essential trading chip almost instantly, and was a big reason why the Nets were able to land Deron Williams at the trade deadline.
Damion James showed dramatic improvement as the season wore on, and could potentially start at small forward next season.
Here is my take on who the Nets should consider in this year's draft with the 27th pick.
Brandon Putre is a Featured Columnist for the New Jersey Nets and a student at Vanderbilt University. Follow him on Twitter @cortezisreal