The New Jersey Nets have the 21st pick. This pick (along with Joe Kleine) came from the L.A. Lakers for George McCloud. The GM is again:
Thad Williamson

who selects:
Andre Woolridge


New Jersey Nets Team Scouting report:


We'll give John Calipari a year one grade of A as GM and C-plus as court coach. The Nets' hopes for a revitalized oncourt record lasted about as long as it took for Shawn Bradley to miss a wide-open layup in the season opener--about 90 seconds--and Calipari's act seemed to be wearing thin on several players in mid-February, when Calipari pulled the trigger on the big deal with Dallas which got rid of the most vocal malcontents as well as black hole Bradley. The Nets actually played some entertaining basketball after the trade, including a win over the Bulls and 2 wins over the Knicks, and now can actually boast of quality, NBA-caliber depth at every position on the roster. Proceeding on the assumption that the Nets ought to re-sign free agent Cassell, then find a way to ship Jim Jackson out, hopefully for a quality inside scorer, here is how the depth chart looks for '97-98, even prior to the draft: PG: Cassell, Edwards SG: Gill, Kittles SF: Benoit (missed '97 with injury; free agent), Kittles PF: J. Williams, Gatling C: Gatling, Montross (option to become free agent) Kleine, Massenburg, McDaniel, Haley, R. Williams, and Dare, from the '97 roster, do not figure in my vision for the Nets, although perhaps Massenburg might be kept around, and Dare is still under contract.. Of the above 8 "nucleus" players, Edwards, Benoit, and Montross are clearly expendable, in that order. [Why ship JJ out, just 3 years after a 26 ppg season, you may ask? Attitude, not enough ball to go around, too inerrant on shooting, too used to losing, and best trade bait for getting a major frontcourt player.] This is an eight-man nucleus capable of winning 35-40 games if healthy; the tough decisions now , as I see it, are how to use Jackson's slot and the draft picks to upgrade from decent-quality to star-quality players, especially in the frontcourt; convincing all-star Gatling that he can make a happy home in the Meadowlands; improving defensively overall; and bringing in players with a winning background. It should be taken for granted that the Nets are still a year away from becoming a solid winner, and will be gearing up for a big free agent signing push in '98 with the salary cap flexibility produced by the Dallas trade, so there should not be a sense of impatience in regard to bringing in young players who will need development. That said, my approach to the draft is to look for 1)star quality player at the 3 spot and 2)defensive presence inside; again based on the assumption that Jackson can be packaged with the likes of Massenburg, Montross, Kleine, or, even the #21 pick, to bring in another decent scorer inside and change. (This GM was willing to pull the trigger, for instance, on a Jackson for Gary Trent-plus the Blazers' first round pick.) A fourth priority would be a passing-oriented point guard to complement Cassell and provide superior footspeed to Edwards off the bench--an option which can't be ignored in light of the large number of good point guards available in this otherwise weak draft. Obviously, if Cassell goes elsewhere, keeping Jackson may be necessary, with Gill taking the point, at least until a quality PG can be acquired. I think Cassell is much too valuable a player to let slide away, however, and would make resigning him the first priority. For what it's worth, I can't see the rumored Shawn Kemp for Jackson, Williams, etc. trade happening...doesn't make sense for the Sonics salary wise.

Player-by-player breakdown of "Nucleus players"

Cassell: A winner and clutch player. Not a defensive anchor. Good playmaker but likes to hunt his own shot too. Gill: Coming off best pro season yet, offensively. Average defender. Kittles: The Man. Great streak shooter, nice long arms help make him a fine defender, good ballhandler. Not strong enough going to the hoop. As close to untouchable as anyone playing for the Nets can be. Should get 15-20 shots a game next year. Edwards: Basically still hanging on, shot has totally deteriorated, hampered by injuries in '97. But still a legit NBA player. Benoit: Good role player in Utah, New Jersey was to provide test of whether Benoit could lift game to another level. We're still waiting to find out. Decent 3 point shooter. Should be resignable for fairly cheap. Gatling: Great inside scorer, offensive rebounder, runs court. Defense not strong suit. Williams: Chance to lead NBA in rebounding with a healthy '98. Terrible shooting percentages in '97. Too bad he can't be combined with Gatling into one body. Montross: Teammates in Dallas, some of whom came with him to New Jersey, got in habit of not throwing #00 the ball or looking inside until Gatling entered game. Numbers improved after trade, though still very poor for season as whole. Will never get the ball on this team until he develops a jumper, but can provide active presence on boards and defensively most nights.

Players seriously considered at #7:

Tim Thomas (1st choice if available) Tracy McGrady Adonal Foyle Kelvin Cato

My pick at #7:

McGrady, 6'8 SF, Mount Zion: Meets two needs at once: shores up the weak small forward position, and provides star potential on a team of average-good players. Conceivably could be teamed with Jim Jackson trade to land a huge player (i.e. Kemp), but this is a pick made with the intention of seeing McGrady in a Net uniform, playing 20 minutes a game as a rookie and possibly rounding into a star by the 2nd or 3rd year a la Garnett. If the highest-end projections of McGrady's potential pan out, the Nets could in time find themselves with a Pippen-caliber small forward. Picking McGrady will mean the bonehead factor on the rest of the team needs to be minimized as the Nets make their pickups for slots 10-12 on next year's roster. To be sure, in most years this would be considered a risky pick--McGrady is universally lauded, but has not proven he can do his thing against top-notch talent. But this is a very weak draft; the main alternative to this pick in my view was going for inside defense with Cato and Foyle. However, that move would mean eventually having to dump Montross and probably get little in return. I'd prefer to give Montross a chance for one more year before moving to upgrade, unless a clear star is available; however, if the Nets feel Montross will become a free agent (a very bad move in my opinion--his worth on the market now is nil), getting a defensive presence at center would become much more urgent. However, I will continue to look at centers (and point guards)--and even small forwards--for the #18 pick. To put things in larger perspective, clearly the Nets will have to get lucky at some point to get anywhere near the top of the Atlantic Division. McGrady is a calculated gamble with a potential payoff too large for a mediocre franchise like the Nets to ignore.

My pick at #21: Andre Woolridge PG, Iowa

Two factors come to mind in making this pick: Woolridge is the best point guard available, and has absolutely no head case issues (a la Maurice Taylor, etc.) and can hence help balance out McGrady's moments of immaturity (though McGrady comes from a high school program more disciplined than just about any college program outside of the state of Indiana.) Woolridge is quick, with the ability to penetrate the lane, great body, a lot of heart, and a chance to become a great defender at the point. Negatives are height, inconsistent outside shooting, and only B+ assist/turnover ratio. Woolridge carried Iowa on his back to a very respectable NCAA showing against Kentucky. I look for him to be an 8-10 year player in the NBA, who can help in bringing a different attitude to the Nets, create good shooting opportunities for Kittles et al, and also serve as insurance in case Cassell decides to fly the coop.

Other players considered at #21:

Reggie Freeman (first choice if available; Glen Rice redux possibility; allows Nets to dump Benoit now or in near future) Jacques Vaughn (second choice if available; 500 assist a year man from get-go) Scot Pollard (underrated prospect, but just way too thin to go with) Marko Milic (possible European stud to play in shadow of Petrovic's jersey) Ed Gray (personal favorite who'd be a good #21; but Nets too overloaded at SG)

Who I think the Nets will take:

My guess is that if the Nets had the same choice I did, they would jump on Battie at center, making the relatively safe pick, and passing on McGrady; if, as likely Battie's gone in the real draft at #7, they'll probably still lean toward Cato or Adonal Foyle. Billups is ranked #7, but I see no justification for taking a non-pure PG that high given the Nets' roster. As to Battie, he's a good player, but he's not carrying a franchise anywhere, ever; he would be another of the solid, legit but not great players the current Nets roster is already overstocked with. McGrady just might be a different story though...and Calipari has already showed a willingness to make bold moves, so picking McGrady may not be totally out of the question. At #21, I think it is likely the Nets go with Vaughn, Woolridge or Shammgod, Freeman if he's there, or explore extracontinental options. The American players down at that level just aren't very enticing, basically good college players who will be hangers-on in the NBA and/or talented head cases. Here's the way I look at it: In the Atlantic Division you've got the Knicks, with at least 3 more good years pending Ewing's new contract the Heat, here to stay at the 55 win level the Bullets, a top 10 NBA team last month of the season the Celtics, with Pitino the 76ers, with Larry Brown, Iverson, Stackhouse the Raptors, with Isaiah and a lot of young players and the Nets. All these teams who have major horses on board, all making a major effort to become a winner, competing for 4 or at most 5 playoff spots per year. Somebody's reputation is going to be bloodied after all this, in the next few seasons. Unless the Nets can get some star quality talent, it's probably going to be Calipari. You gotta roll the dice, John--snag McGrady, bring some excitement to the listless Meadowlands, let Bill Raftery holler on the cablecasts with glee, and even make NJ a somewhat attractive place for some big-name free agent to relocate to in '98.

Back to 1997 Usenet draft page