Nets The Usenet draft does not have an official second round.   What we do is let the teams that do not have a first round pick have a say in the draft.  The first of the "second round goes to the New Jersey Nets.  In the real draft, the Nets have the 34th pick. Their GM is  Dean Carrano, who selects:

Laron Profit, SG, 6'5", Maryland

I. Overview

The shortened 1999 season was a tremendously disappointing one for the New Jersey Nets. The team entered the season as a popular "sleeper" pick to be a serious Eastern Conference contender. The team's potent offensive attack impressed observers, and was often compared favorably to the slower-moving approach of the team's "big brother" across the river, the Knicks. But shockingly, the Nets got off to a Clipper-like start, or perhaps I should say a start reminiscent of the unlamented Nets teams of the past. When the team's record reached 3-17, coach John Calipari started looking a lot less like a miracle worker and a lot more like a guy who wasn't getting through to his players anymore because of his overbearing style.

In the meantime, a major change had taken place at the management level above Calipari. The Nets, one of the least historically successful NBA franchises, had merged with the New York Yankees, historically the most successful baseball franchise, to form the unlikely conglomeration known as "YankeeNets." So what would George Steinbrenner do when his team started off 3-17? Well, that's what the YankeeNets did. Calipari was fired, and replaced by former assistant Don Casey. The ownership continued to show its willingness to make big moves when Stephon Marbury was acquired from Minnesota. Marbury did not come cheap. The Nets gave up Sam Cassell (outstanding in '97-'98 but was injured for almost all of '99; some questioned the severity of the injury), Chris Gatling (former 6th man All-Star who was unhappy in N.J.), Brian Evans (bench scrub), the Nets' first round pick this year (i.e., someone like Wally Szczerbiak or Richard Hamilton), and a future first-round pick. They then inked Marbury to the maximum allowable contract.

In this second half of the season under Casey, the Nets finished 13-17, making their final record 16-34, still well below preseason expectations. Casey's contract was extended this offseason for three years, and the Nets go into next year hoping that the new management and Marbury can help this team live up to the potential that everyone once thought it had.

The Nets' basic problem was that they shot .406, while their opponents shot .453. This is a pretty astounding stat, and it should be obvious that you're not going to win like that. The Nets were also outrebounded as a team despite the 10+ rpg averages of Jayson Williams and his replacement Jamie Feick, and a good rebounding season from Keith Van Horn (8.5 rpg). The team suffered many injuries, but that doesn't change the fact that even before any injuries, most individual members of the team had significantly worse years in '99 than they had had the previous year. I'll discuss those individuals now.

II. Team Analysis


And the problems start right here. The level of Jayson Williams' game dropped dramatically last year. He was blocking more shots for some reason (2.0 bpg, as opposed to fewer than 1 a game in '97-'98), but his FG% fell from .498 to .445, his FT% fell from an acceptable .666 to a plain ugly .565, his scoring fell from 12.9 ppg to 8.1 ppg, and his rebounding, which is the main reason he's there, fell from 13.6 rpg (6.8 offensive) to 12.0 rpg (4.9 offensive). Then in game 31, he suffered a severe leg fracture that puts him in doubt even for Opening Day 2000. It's difficult to say why Jayson's game fell off; he is so media-friendly that reporters don't usually criticize him. He needs to do more than rebound for the Nets to be a success. As you probably know, Jayson would be much better suited to play power forward.

New Jersey dipped into the CBA to replace Jayson and came up with Jamie Feick, who was an extremely pleasant surprise. No one expected anything from a 6'8" lifetime benchwarmer forced to play center, but Feick pulled down 10.3 rpg and was not a total non-factor on offense. He played at least 75% as well as Jayson, which may have made management wonder why they're paying Jayson $14 million a year (!!!) when they got Feick for the minimum. Feick is a free agent, and since everyone could use another big body who can play, he will be in demand.

The backup plan at center was originally Jim McIlvaine, but he missed about half the season with an injury (in his case, a shoulder problem.) The acquisition of McIlvaine was much criticized because he is vastly overpaid. While this is no doubt true, few people considered that the Nets gave up a similarly overpaid player to get him, Don MacLean. And McIlvaine, like him or not, fills a major need for the Nets, where MacLean would have filled no need. McIlvaine is a defensive presence who has led the NBA in blocks per minute. There is a role for him on a team, but not as a starter, because he can't do *anything* offensively.

Rony Seikaly, seemingly the best Nets center on paper, was *also* on the DL half the year with a foot problem, and the Nets showed no inclination to play him the rest of the time. I'm not sure what the story is there, but one thing that seems likely is that Seikaly won't be returning to the Nets as a free agent.

Gheorghe Muresan, on the other hand, may be. At least you gotta figure that's why the Nets signed him in May, since they knew he was out for the year with a back problem, and he's now a free agent. At least Gheorghe is not still suffering from the ankle problem that kept him out for '97-'98. Still, one has to wonder whether the incredibly plodding Muresan is a good fit for a fast-breaking team like this, and also wonder how effective he'll be after missing two straight years. He never exactly was a polished player.


Keith Van Horn, the consensus runner-up Rookie of the Year in '97-'98, didn't develop that much in '99. As I mentioned, his rebounding was good, now up to a level that could be considered acceptable for a power forward. But his FG% is still around 43%, which is not good enough for a power forward. Of course, Van Horn is an outside shooter, so a worse percentage is to be expected. Surprisingly, though, his range does not quite seem to extend to the NBA three-point line. After shooting .308 on 224 three-point attempts in '97-'98, he cut it down to 53 attempts last year...and shot .302. There isn't much evidence that Van Horn makes his teammates better. He averages fewer than two assists per game, and as his FG% shows, he's taking some bad shots. I'm not trying to bash Van Horn; he is still the biggest asset the Nets have: a 20 ppg scorer and a 6'10" guy who can jump and score from all over the floor, and a great free throw shooter. But there is lots of room for development in his game. I personally think it would be more likely to happen if he could play more small forward, but the Nets' personnel hasn't allowed that.

The other power forward options for the Nets were either one of the centers listed above, or scrubs like William Cunningham and Mark Hendrickson who are worthy of no further mention.


Kendall Gill, who is currently a free agent, started here for the Nets last season. Gill became a stealing fiend in '99, leading the league with 2.7 spg. On April 3 against Miami, he tied the single-game record with 11 steals. Other than that, he pretty much did what he had done the previous year, taking into account the league-wide drop in offense. Gill is a good complementary player, but as I see it, not one who fits in particularly well with the Nets. If Van Horn were to play SF and Kittles SG, there would be no place for Gill to start, and he does rightfully expect to start somewhere. Since he has been a good soldier, I think New Jersey will try to resign Gill, but I'm not sure it's a great idea.

Swingman Scott Burrell looks like he will never live up to the offensive potential he showed a few years ago as a starter for Charlotte, but he still has a place on a team. He is an excellent defender, he hits his free throws, and he can hurt you if you leave him open behind the three-point line. The athletic Burrell is a free agent who should attract moderate attention.


The decline in Kerry Kittles' game may have been the most disturbing event for the Nets in '99. Kittles had seemed to take a step forward in '97-'98, but last season his offensive game collapsed. He simply could not find the basket, falling from 17.2 ppg to 12.9, a .440 FG% to .370, and a .418 three-point percentage to .316. It was difficult to believe that a young, levelheaded player, playing in basically the same offense that had been used the previous year, could regress so far. Kittles will still swipe the ball from you if you look the other way, and potentially is still as good a third option on offense as you could want. He is unselfish, plays intelligently, and before last year, was a solid shooter. The Nets need that Kittles to show up again.

Swingman Chris Carr is an end of the bench guy. He's a great dunker, and although he can make the three, he's not as good a long-range shooter as he thinks he is. He's a free agent who will probably sign somewhere the day before Opening Day when someone gets hurt.

Lucious Harris was the downside of the Keith Van Horn trade (a trade I questioned at the time, but unless Jim Jackson, Tim Thomas, or Anthony Parker step it up, a trade that right now has to be considered terrific for the Nets.) New Jersey is stuck with his lame overpaid 12th man butt until 2003.


A big strength for the Nets. Stephon Marbury is happy to be a Net, and the still-developing star had his best year yet in '99. His 21.3 ppg, 8.9 apg, .428 FG%, and .799 FT% were all career highs. Marbury is not as multidimensional as some of the other top point guards: He doesn't rebound, his defense isn't too great either on or off the ball, and his outside shot needs work. Still, he doesn't have to be Jason Kidd to be good. You'd still take Marbury if you were building a team, and since the guy would be in his first NBA season right now if he had played four years in college, the future is only likely to get better.

Marbury has two good backups. Eric Murdock (stop me if you've heard this before) missed half the year to a knee problem, and prior to that, he wasn't even playing that great. Due to Cassell's injury, Murdock was pressed into the starting PG role, and that's asking a little much. What Murdock is, however, is a good third guard who can fill in capably at either guard spot and not embarrass you. Murdock is one of the top ball-stealers in the league.

Elliott Perry, who was acquired along with Marbury, didn't play too many minutes for the Nets, so he hardly showed anything. One assumes he's still a good backup, though, as he has been in the past.

III. Team Needs

  • A starting center. This would move Jayson Williams to PF and Van Horn to SF, which I think would help the team tremendously. This center would need to be a scoring threat, since the Nets don't have any other inside scoring threats (Gatling was the only one.)
  • Since Gill, Burrell, and Carr are free agents, a swingman is needed.
  • Since Feick, Muresan, and Seikaly are free agents, backup big men are needed.
  • Someone who can play some defense. The Nets don't have too much of that. They steal the ball a lot, but their man-to-man defense is pitiful. It'd help if they were less undersized, but that still wouldn't make the problem go away.

IV. Draft History

1998: No picks at all. The Magic got the Nets' 1st rounder in the Seikaly deal and used it to pick Matt Harpring. Harpring isn't gonna be a star, but he has done more for Orlando than Seikaly's done for NJ.

1997: The Nets traded up to get Van Horn with the #2 pick. Like I said, you can't complain about that at this point.

1996: Kittles #8. The obvious pick at the time has worked out.

No one else on the current roster was drafted by the Nets. Not surprising, when you consider they drafted Ed O'Bannon in '95 and Yinka Dare in '94. The Nets' draft history, in general, goes a long way towards explaining why they have historically been a cellar dweller.

V. 1999 Selection

The Nets draft Laron Profit, small forward from Maryland.

Like I said before, you're not going to win shooting .406 when your opponents shoot .453. The Nets need someone who will take good shots and play defense. Profit definitely did both those things in college. He is used to being a complementary player, so that's not a problem. He can run the floor, which the Nets do.

For what it's worth, he was also excellent in the Chicago camps. ESPN's Mike Sullivan said that Profit showed he "could handle the ball and create [his] own shot off the dribble ... Profit also finished quite well around the basket."

VI. Other players considered

Venson Hamilton, Nebraska: Gave him serious consideration because he's a big guy and seems to have skills. However, the Nets' need for a big man isn't really any more than their need for a swingman, and I felt Profit had more chance to become a truly useful player than Hamilton. It'd be one thing if you knew Hamilton could play center at an NBA starter's level, but I don't think there is any sure contributing center in this whole draft, never mind in the second round.

Cal Bowdler, Old Dominion: Seemed like a less polished version of Hamilton.

Rodney Buford, Creighton: Thought about it, but New Jersey really does need a defensive player, not another high-flying scorer.

Vonteego Cummings, Pittsburgh: I like him, but NJ has no need for a PG.

Jamel Thomas, Providence: Not the more disciplined player I wanted, I think. Could make me look dumb.

VII. Who the Nets will actually draft

Umm, ask the Magic 8-ball, because I sure as heck don't know. Probably a big guy. One of the people already picked in this draft, like Kenny Thomas, A.J. Bramlett, or Lari Ketner, could fall and would be tempting if they did.

VIII. Other offseason moves

I think the Nets will try to re-sign Muresan, Feick, and Burrell. I have no clue how badly those people want to play for New Jersey, but if they do they would be helpful, especially the latter two. As I said, I don't think it's necessary to re-sign Gill or Carr, and I don't think there is interest on either side with respect to Seikaly.

There aren't any really good true free agent centers, so I really doubt New Jersey can fill that hole just yet. Erick Dampier and Lorenzen Wright would be the only guys you might want to put down a good chunk of change for. Neither is as good offensively as what the Nets really need. There are lots of big forwards who are free agents (Gary Trent, Jermaine O'Neal, Samaki Walker, Bo Outlaw, etc.), but there's no point for the Nets to put down a lot of money unless the guy can start at center.

As far as swingmen go, Ron Harper, Cedric Henderson, Shandon Anderson, or Rick Fox can all certainly help a team. Dell Curry or George McCloud would provide a three-point threat that the Nets lacked last year, although a three-point shooter can only be so effective when a team has as little inside game to set them up as the Nets do.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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