The seventh pick belongs to the New Jersey Nets. Their net GM is:
Thad Williamson

Thad selects:
Tracey McGrady


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 misss 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), Kittles
PF: Williams, Gatling
C: Gatling, Montross

Kleine, Massenburg, McDaniel, Haley, and Dare, from the '97 roster, do 
not figure in my vision for the Nets, although perhaps Massenburg might 
be kept around. Of the above 8 "nucleus" players, Edwards, Benoit, and 
Montross are clearly expendable, in that order.

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 JacksonŐs 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.

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:

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 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, 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.

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