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New Jersey Nets

The 7th pick belongs to perpetual "lotteried" New Jersey Nets, represented this year by Rob Doyle.  The Nets select:

Joe Johnson, SF, 6'8", Arkansas

I. Introduction

The biggest problem with the New Jersey Nets has been injuries. Johnny Newman and Aaron Williams were the only two players to play in all 82 games for them this past season. Their nucleus of Marbury, Van Horn, and Martin were rarely on the court at the same time. Injuries aside, the Nets are a few pieces away from being playoff contenders. They have been lacking a solid center since Jayson Williams retired, and he wasn't even a true center. But there are two other areas that are very vital to the Nets. The first is whether or not Keith Van Horn will be traded. Rumors have been running rampant about a deal with Utah, and there has even been talk about Van Horn to Washington. That move could drastically effect the way the Nets approach the draft. Also, Kerry Kittles' performance will be key for the Nets next year. Can they count on him to be part of their nucleus, or should they look to pick a SG in the draft because they fear Kittles won't be the type of player they are looking for? You also have to consider that the Nets aren't in a position to lure-away any major free agents. They could possibly sign role players to small deals, but they are over the cap and not too many people want to play for a losing team in New Jersey.

II. Statistics (courtesy of nba.com)

Stephon Marbury676738.2.441.328.7903.107.623.9
Keith Van Horn494735.4.435.382.8067.101.717.0
Kenyon Martin686833.4.445.091.6307.401.912.0
Johnny Newman821725.0.419.335.8552.101.410.9
Aaron Williams822528.5.457.000.7877.201.110.2
Lucious Harris735028.4.425.348.7703.901.89.4
Kendall Gill312628.8.331.286.7224.202.89.1
Stephen Jackson774021.6.425.335.7192.701.88.2
Doug Overton12926.3.376.313.6002.004.46.9
Mark Strickland9022.4.3891.000.7274.60.85.7
Sherman Douglas59718.5.403.200.7481.302.45.7
Eddie Gill8019.0.390.333.8001.103.04.9
Jamie Feick6024.8.348.000.5009.30.83.7
Evan Eschmeyer745118.0.460.000.6574.90.53.4
Vladimir Stepania2909.7.318.250.7353.80.62.8
Jamel Thomas5011.2.316.333.0001.80.02.6
Jim McIlvaine18310.7.357.000.6671.90.21.6
Soumaila Samake3406.6.375.000.4171.60.01.4
Kevin Ollie1908.

III. Contracts (courtesy of Patricia's Various Basketball Stuff)

playerdate signedyearssalaryFA
Sherman Douglas10/20/992$2.3 million'01
Kendall Gill8/11/001$7 million'01
Stephen Jackson9/29/001minimum'01
Doug Overton3/22/011minimum'01
Vladimir Stepania12/15/001minimum'01
Mark Strickland3/28/011minimum'01
Jamel Thomas4/6/011minimum'01
Evan Eschmeyer8/9/992$600,000 t-opt'02
Soumalia Samake9/6/002minimum t-opt'02
Johnny Newman8/3/002$4.2 million'02
Lucious Harris7/23/967$13.44 million'03
Jim McIlvaine7/22/967$35 million'03
Kenyon Martin8/22/004$16,534,449 rc t-opt'04
Aaron Williams8/5/006$17 million p-opt'05
Jamie Feick8/1/996$15 million'05
Kerry Kittles9/4/96,3/13/993+6$4,677,000 + $52 mill'05
Stephon Marbury7/18/96,3/13/993+6$5.67 mill + $70.9 mill'05
Keith Van Horn7/28/97,8/1/993+6$9,161,000+$73 mill'06

IV. Positions

Point Guard

Stephon Marbury - He truly blossomed into a star this year. He was the #10 leading scorer in the league and #8 in assists. Out of everybody on the team he is the one with the highest trade value, but he is such an integral part of the team that it would have to be a blockbuster deal to be able to pry Marbury out of New Jersey. But he wants to play for a winner and so there will continue to be trade talk. However, as long as he is on the court with the Nets Rod Thorn knows that his team has a true scorer and playmaker who will keep opposing defenses on their toes.

Sherman Douglas - The guy provides veteran leadership, but he really did not provide much else. His field goal percentage was at a career-low, and he has always been awful from behind the arc. Add to that the fact that he had less than a 2:1 assist-turnover ratio and his future with the team is definitely in question. The Nets were very excited about him at the beginning of the season, but he just doesn't have the production you want out of a backup PG.

Doug Overton - He did dish out 11 assists against Chicago during the season, but he is not the long-term answer as a backup to Marbury. He doesn't have the same amount of energy when he is on the court and he was an awful shooter in his limited action with the team. He is a steady backup, but if Marbury goes down again they will need more than Overton.

Eddie Gill - He saw action in eight games in his first season in the NBA only because the Nets needed to fill their roster after injuries took away many of their main cast. The good news is that he was a steady ball-handler and plays with good poise, but he is not a star by any means. Maybe he will continue to develop, but if Marbury went down Eddie Gill isn't exactly the type of guy to strike fear in the hearts of his opponents.

Summary: Once you get past Marbury the position is very weak. The good news is that Marbury hardly-ever leaves the game, but if he gets injured like he did last season the Nets are in trouble. They may end-up playing with a big backcourt or they could turn to free agency or the second round of the draft to solve this lack of depth.

Shooting Guard

Kerry Kittles - Scroll up the page and check out Kittles' statistics for the past season. Oops, he doesn't have any. He spent the entire season recovering from knee surgery, and although doctors have cleared him to play in the upcoming season it is still up in the air as to how effective he will be. For a while there you could almost hear the Nets management praying for him to retire so they could lose his salary. But he is back now and his salary isn't going anywhere. Another problem is that his career has been sagging for quite some time now. After averaging 16.4 and 17.2 PPG in his first two seasons, respectfully, the next two years he posted averages of 12.9 and 13.0. Another problem is that he only weighs 185 pounds, so unless he is guarding Richard Hamilton he will struggle on defense against bulkier Eastern Conference guards. He teams with Marbury to form a very small and frail backcourt.

Kendall Gill - He is about to enter his 12th year in the league, but he is a free agent and it isn't certain that he will be back with the Nets. It is highly unlikely that they will be able to pay him the type of money the CBA dictates he should receive, although he hardly warrants the $7million he got last season. Back in the 96-97 season he averaged 21.8 PPG, but last year he posted a career-low of 9.8 and he didn't even have to share time with Kittles. On the bright side, he brings veteran leadership and can play SF, as well, but if he were to stay on the team his role would get smaller each year.

Lucious Harris - Harris just finished the best year of his career, but it was far from stellar. Despite starting 50 games he couldn't reach double figures in PPG or post decent rebounding or assist numbers. He is best as a reserve and that will be the role he will play next year with Kittles back in the picture. The good news is that he shoots a decent percentage and does everything marginally well, and so he won't hurt the team when he is on the court.

Stephen Jackson - Jackson was actually one of the most productive rookies in the league this year even though he was drafted three years ago. He's tall and athletic and can shoot the long ball with some accuracy, but he had bouts of inconsistency and really didn't prove to have a mature game. He ended-up being benched for most of the latter part of the season, but he could still be in the Nets plans next season. However, he'll get some offers from other teams in the offseason because of his potential.

Summary: This is a deep position for the Nets, but they don't really have the type of personnel to get into the playoffs at this spot. Kittles is skinny and is recovering from a major injury, Gill and Harris are role-players, and Jackson is developing. If a star like Jason Richardson fell into their lap in the draft they would have to consider him even with Kittles on the team. Despite the fact that it would create a logjam, they need talent at SG.

Small Forward

Keith Van Horn - You could write volumes on how Van Horn will affect the Nets' draft. First of all, there has been a lot of trade talk surrounding him. Despite the fact that he only played in 48 games last year and his scoring took a hit, he still has great trade value. You are looking at a guy who is 6'10", a former #2 overall pick, and a guy who can play both PF and SF. However, that last part is kind of tricky. He isn't a true power forward because he isn't very physical underneath, but he is too slow to be a true SF. He is just a player, although having an undefined position causes some confusion when he is on the court. Teams can play to his weaknesses. But he is very valuable to the Nets right now and it is doubtful that he would be traded unless a great offer was made. The Nets have been building around him for four years and they aren't about to let him go just because he was hurt last season. You can figure that he will be a key player for the Nets next year.

Johnny Newman - He's a 37-year-old role player who still managed to average in double-digits last season. But if you look at his rebounding and assist numbers you can see that he doesn't do very much for his team. He provides veteran leadership and he is a steady performer, but he doesn't get as much out of his minutes as you would expect. For now he is a decent reserve SF, but he isn't the type of dynamic player they need.

Jamel Thomas - He's been in the league for three years and has only seen action in 12 games. The guy lives off of 10-day contracts. That should explain everything. Thomas is an undersized forward who was very productive in college but who just doesn't have the size or quickness to be a factor in the pros. His contract is up and if the Nets are looking to make room on their roster he will likely be booted.

Summary: Van Horn is the key for this group. When he is healthy the Nets seem to function properly, but when he is nursing an injury they find themselves relying on Marbury too much. In approaching the draft it is vital to have a good feel for Van Horn's future with the team, because when you look past him there isn't much depth. But it is also important to keep in mind that Kendall Gill and Stephen Jackson are both capable of playing SF, however the Nets could still use some insurance at this position.

Power Forward

Kenyon Martin - Martin was coming into his own before a broken leg cut his season short. He was a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, and he even recorded a triple-double against Milwaukee. He is part of New Jersey's nucleus and he is expected to only get better, so the Nets won't be looking for anyone to be a starting PF in this draft.

Jaime Feick - It's looking like Feick will miss the entire 01-02 season because of an Achilles' injury that hasn't healed. The Nets would love to ship him off in a trade, and there has been talk that he would be a part in a New Jersey-Utah swap that includes Keith Van Horn, Donyell Marshall, Bryon Russell, and the Jazz's first-round pick. But with this injury he is jeopardizing that trade. Basically, he is getting paid an obscene amount and he isn't even on the court most of the time. But when he does get on the court his rebounding numbers are obscene. He is a great force on the boards, but the Nets can't count on him for this upcoming year.

Mark Strickland - He spent the bulk of last season on the Nuggets, but the Nets signed him for the rest of the year because of a lack of depth due to injuries. Strickland is a great athlete but has been horribly unproductive in his NBA career. He is a very limited offensive player who excels the greatest on the boards, but really isn't a part of the Nets long-term plans.

Summary: Once you get past Martin there really isn't anyone on the depth chart. Feick may not play a single game next season, and the only other true power forward the Nets had on their team last year was Mark Strickland, and he may not be resigned. The good news is that both Keith Van Horn and Aaron Williams can play power forward, but it still would not hurt to get a quality backup for Martin.


Aaron Williams - First of all, the guy is 6'9" and hardly a true center. But, then again, that seems to be a trend with big men from Xavier. Williams had the best year of his career last season, playing for his seventh team in as many years. He was the Nets most consistent post player, and he gave a great effort underneath the basket. But he is just lucky that he plays in the Eastern conference where almost every team uses power forwards at the center position. Williams has been mentioned as trade bait in the New Jersey-Utah deal if the Nets can't give away Feick, instead. The Nets would like to keep Williams, though, for his consistency and work ethic.

Evan Eschmeyer - He's a solid player, but he is very mechanical in his movements. You could say that he is a less-skilled Michael Doleac. But, despite being a former first round pick, he doesn't get as many minutes as you would assume, even considering that the Nets really need a center in their lineup. But Eschmeyer is developing and his numbers are fairly solid. He's got a big enough body to compete and the Nets expect him to play a bigger role with the team next season.

Jim McIlvaine - A calf injury shortened his season, but the Nets were reluctant to put him on the court even when he was healthy. The word "McIlvaine" has almost become NBA jargon for signing players to deals for more than they are worth. The Nets would love to get rid of him, but nobody wants his services. They will just have to wait two more years for his contract to expire and just hope that he can play some quality minutes once in a while.

Vladamir Stepania - You can probably consider him as good as gone. His began his career on a good not in Seattle, but ever since he has seem his numbers drop and drop to the point where last season he shot .318 from the field. Out of every position on the court a center is the last person who should shoot such a hideous percentage. In the Nets' search for a starting center you can cross Stepania off the list.

Soumaila Samake - This native of Mali only saw over ten minutes of action in six games last season. He is a frail seven-footer who became the second-round draft pick of the Nets last season after leading the IBL in blocked shots. Samake is a major project who could see more minutes next season, but he isn't the Net's answer to their center problems.

Summary: Oh boy, the Nets need some help. Eschmeyer shows signs of being a quality center, but he will never be a star. In the meantime Aaron Williams has done a solid job, but he is unable to match-up well against bigger centers. This will definitely be a spot they look at in the draft because it would be hard to get much worse.

V. Needs

1. Center - By far the weakest position on their team, the Nets are a long way away from seeing one of their centers make the All-Star squad. Williams and Eschmeyer are serviceable, but both are best used as backups. However, it is important to remember that this is the team that drafted Yinka Dare, and so while they may want to go after a center in the first round they will definitely be hesitant.

2. Shooting guard - Kittles is supposed to be the answer at this position, but you will be hard-pressed to find a Nets fan who is confident in him. They do have depth at this position, but they are lacking a true threat who will cause mismatches and lend a hand to Marbury in the backcourt.

3. Forward depth - Besides Martin and Van Horn the Nets really don't have anyone with star power who plays the forward position. No one on their roster is exciting to watch or difficult to defend. They have steady performers and hard workers, but they need guy with talent, as well.

4. Backup point guard - If Marbury goes down the Nets are up a creek. They could look to free agency for help or try to pick up someone in the second round, but it is definitely a position they need to address.

VI. Potential Draftees

Shane Battier - I really like Battier and he could instantly help the Nets just by coming off the bench. But as long as Van Horn and Martin are mainstays in the lineup he really won't be able to obtain the minutes he deserves. If Van Horn were to be traded it would change everything and Battier would be much more appealing, but Battier just doesn't have the versatility to earn playing time and contribute at other positions.

Rodney White - Once again, if Van Horn was traded White would be much more appealing. Like Battier, he is capable of backing-up both forward positions. He has a little more potential than Battier, but he isn't as dependable at this stage in his career. But he is rising up the draft board and he definitely warrants a look because of his abilities.

Joe Johnson - The great thing about Johnson is that he can play any position but center. He will be used mainly as a SG/SF in the NBA, but his versatility is the key. He has the size, athleticism, and shooting ability to be a very special player. Right now he isn't as solid as many of the other prospects, though, and he is coming off a somewhat down-year. But he is still able to help the Nets in many ways that other prospects won't.

Pao Gasol - I have eliminated him from serious contention because he has expressed openly that he wants to be a top-six pick or else he will withdraw his name. Since the Nets have the seventh pick it seems as if things won't work out. But, as long as Van Horn is on the roster, Gasol's potential with the team would be limited.

Richard Jefferson - He is a great athlete who can play both SG and SF. However, the #7 pick is a bit too high for him. The Nets could trade down a few spots and still get him. But he doesn't have the same type of versatility that a guy like Joe Johnson has, even though Jefferson has great star-potential.

DeSagna Diop - He would be a very logical choice, but the Nets already have two developing big men and I think they would be very scared to take Diop because of what happened with Yinka Dare. Diop is so unrefined and he has openly stated that he is not ready for the NBA. Out of all the major prospects he has the most potential to be a bust.

Loren Woods - The Nets already have shotblockers in Samake and McIlvaine, but Woods has a better offensive game than the other two, combined. The downside is that he is frail and will struggle with the physical aspect of the game. He would be a nice pick with more ability to contribute than Diop, but he also stands a good chance of being a bust and riding the bench with the rest of the centers on the roster.

VII. Who I Chose

Joe Johnson, SF, 6'8", Arkansas

He is far from my favorite out of all the potential draftees. I've been very critical of him all season long, complaining about how he should have been dominating and leading his team. But in this case he seems like the best fit for the Nets. It is his versatility that truly stands out. He could find playing time at four different positions, and could conceivably become the starter at SG in his first season. He creates major matchup problems and he is also capable of helping Marbury with the ball-handling duties. The Nets are a good fit for him because he would be playing on a young team, but a team where he won't be expected to put them on his shoulders. A lot of people have been comparing him to Lamar Odom, but he has a ways to go before he reaches Odom's success. But Johnson does have the physical tools and the silky-smooth game to turn heads in the NBA and really help the Nets in a lot of ways.

I will be completely honest, though, and say that I was hoping for Jason Richardson to slip to #7. He would have taken a lot of pressure off Marbury in the backcourt and he would instantly increase the Nets' energy-level. The only other player taken before my pick that I found truly appealing was Eddy Curry. I have confidence that he would have been a quality center for the Nets and stands less of a chance of being a bust than Diop or Woods.

In the end it came down to either Johnson or Battier. If I knew for a fact that Van Horn was on his way out I would have taken Battier in a heartbeat. I was very surprised that he slipped so far and whomever drafts him will be very happy. But I just felt as if Johnson would be a bigger help to the Nets than Battier because of his versatility and the way he can create mismatches.