The Brooklyn Nets are the laughing stock of the National Basketball Assocation. We know this. What else is there to say about an organization that mortgaged nearly a decade's worth of draft picks for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry? Can you make any new jokes about the Billy King era, which thankfully ended almost a full year ago?
But, what if the Nets weren't a laughing stock? What if, in previous drafts, they actually landed players who could help bring about a world title?
Today, we’re going to look back at the last 15 drafts the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets were involved in and, taking into account everything from potential to what the team needed, and we’ll try to fix things up a bit.
As with other re-drafts, there’s two things to keep in mind with this re-draft:
- Anyone from the 2016 class is not eligible from this list; I don’t like judging draft picks for at least three or so years unless they’re major steals (Steph Curry level) or busts (Anthony Bennett level).
- To add some fun and realism to the mix, we’re going to pretend that each pick follows one another, meaning who the Nets drafted in this version of the 2002 draft may change how they look at the 2003 draft. Players already off the board (i.e. Kyrie Irving for 2011) are ineligible for this, meaning New Jersey/Brooklyn have to do the best of what they’re given.
15 1997: Tracy McGrady (7th) & Jacque Vaughn (21st)
Old Picks: Tim Thomas & Anthony Parker
If you have to think about picking between Tim Thomas, a journeyman veteran who was a major clubhouse cancer, or future Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady...come on. The Nets needed a shooting guard, which is why they immediately traded Thomas to Philadelphia for Keith Van Horn, so T-Mac would have been a perfect fit.
And yes, drafting McGrady does probably come with the notation that he'll likely suffer some injuries later, but this is Tracy McGrady we're talking about. You put him on those turn-of-the-century Nets teams that we're about to get to and I see no reason why New Jersey isn't the dynasty they should have been.
As for Vaughn over Bradley, it's just my own preference. Also, Vaughn being the current assistant coach of the Nets may have played a role in this.
14 2000: Kenyon Martin
Old Pick: Kenyon Martin
The 2000 NBA Draft class was terrible. which makes the Nets getting this pick right even more satisfying. Martin did have his issues with the Nets - most notably, his mini-feud with teammate Alonzo Mourning - but the guy was an All-Star who was huge in helping New Jersey make the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals.
Regardless of who they drafted next, New Jersey needed a dominant, intimidating big man and Martin happened to fit the bill perfectly. What, they were going to draft Stromile Swift first overall?
So already, the Nets have Tracy McGrady and Kenyon Martin with Jason Kidd just one season away. To think that this could have legitimately happened in real life if the Nets had gone for McGrady over Tim Thomas...
13 2001: Joe Johnson
Old Pick: Eddie Griffin
This one was tougher than you may think, not because Griffin was a superior player to Johnson, but because the Nets traded Griffin to Houston for the draft-day rights to Jason Collins, Brandon Armstrong and Richard Jefferson. In short, it became 'would the Nets draft a player with a Hall of Fame case over three huge contributors to the mid 2000s teams?'
The truth is...probably, yes. Johnson could have played either the two or the three, adding another scoring compliment to a lineup that already had Tracy McGrady and Kenyon Martin in the mix. When you add Jason Kidd, a proven veteran point guard, to that young cast, then you know big things are coming. Johnson, while overrated at times in his career, has been a solid player for a long time.
12 2002: Carlos Boozer
Old Pick: Nenad Krstic
I had honestly forgotten that Carlos Boozer slipped all the way to the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft, but if the Nets could pick him at 24th overall here, I have no doubt in my mind that they would. Even with Martin on the roster, New Jersey probably wasn't going to pass up a player that can play either the four or the five - whichever Martin isn't playing.
And, in defense of Nenad Krstic, that was the role he was intended to - and actually did - play with the Nets. But, would you rather have Nenad Krstic or Carlos Boozer? I thought so...
While Boozer is nowhere near the All-Star player he used to be, he still gave his teams several great seasons, years which he could have spent with the Nets.
11 2003: Josh Howard
Old Pick: Zoran Planinić
Something else I had forgotten before going back to this article was that Howard, a 2007 NBA All-Star, actually nearly fell out of that legendary 2003 first round due to him smoking marijuana a lot. Seriously. Does that change my perception of him and me saying the Nets would draft him if given the chance? Nope.
With McGrady and Johnson already on the roster, Howard is probably taking a role player/sixth man type of role with the Nets - which, if you think about it, is perfect. Josh Howard was in his prime what J.R. Smith is now: an electric player who can start, but who you may want to have as a sixth-man type of player.
If you think the Nets, who were still championship contenders at this time, would have passed on that, then you're crazy.
10 2004: Tony Allen
Old Pick: Viktor Khryapa
This is just essentially a 'best player available' type of pick, though I do think the Nets would have appreciated the defense Allen has been known to bring to the table. After all, that's Tony Allen's bread and butter: getting those kills on defense to push the momentum in favor of your offense. Would New Jersey's new high powered offense want to pass on that? Today Allen brings that hard style of play to the Grizzlies, where he's still effective.
Interestingly enough, Khryapa never played a minute for the Nets, being immediately traded to Portland for Eddie Gill...who was waived in July 2004. Anything's better than drafting a guy who you traded for a player that was soon waived, right?
All in all, Allen would have been of great use to the Nets.
9 2005: Danny Granger
Old Pick: Antoine Wright, G, Texas A&M
When I was younger, I thought Joe Johnson and Danny Granger were essentially the same type of player: long, lanky forwards who could beat you from behind the arc or within close range. So, why would New Jersey draft Granger if they already had Johnson, you ask?
Simple: why not have two players of the same mold when you can develop the second? New Jersey would have been at that point where they can afford to draft a former college star they can still develop and not have to rush him into the action, so I like the pick of Granger here.
8 2006: Kyle Lowry (22nd) & Paul Millsap (23rd)
Old Picks: Marcus Williams & Josh Boone
First off, Josh Boone was white and had cornrows. That in itself is awesome.
The Nets drafting Lowry and Millsap is pretty much in the same boat as Granger: development. Lowry would be the ideal replacement for Jason Kidd when Kidd hit free agency after the 2008-09 season and Millsap could be developed as the replacement for Martin, who would have been 30 by the time the 2006-07 season ended. That's not to say Martin was too old, but the word is development.
A big reason why the Nets declined so heavily as a franchise was because they didn't prepare for the future properly. Once their championship window closed, they had no answers in their system. These picks would have provided a future.
7 2007: Marc Gasol
Old Pick: Sean Williams, F, Boston College
Honestly, this one isn't so much development as it really is just Gasol being the best player available. Yes, the Nets could draft Wilson Chandler or Arron Afflalo who would have probably given an earlier impact, but Gasol also brings something else to the table: he's a trade chip.
With all of the high-quality NBA players who would be hitting the free agency market in upcoming years, but would still have a demand on the trade market - guys like Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer, and Richard Hamilton - New Jersey could have used Gasol as a piece to acquire another superstar. Or, they could have kept him around and tried to get more from him than they did Sean Williams.
6 2008: Brook Lopez (11th) & Courtney Lee (21st)
Old Picks: Brook Lopez & Ryan Anderson
Considering Brook Lopez has truly become of the greatest players in franchise history - and maybe the greatest who was drafted by the Nets - I can't say no to him coming back even with Gasol and Millsap still around. If Brook Lopez is still on the board at #11 overall, you absolutely need to pick him.
Why wouldn't the Nets want to bring Lopez back again? When he's been healthy - which, really with the exception of 2011-12 and 2013-14, he has been - the guy has been among the league's best centers; and, unlike Millsap, he is a traditional center.
As for Anderson over Lee, the irony here is that the Nets traded Anderson to Orlando a year later to get Lee. Here, the Nets still get their man, just a year earlier.
5 2009: DeMarre Carroll
Old Pick: Terrence Williams
The Junkyard Dog is just so awesome, being a jack-of-all-trades type player that can really change the game with his physicality. Jeff Teague and Jrue Holiday were options here, but with Kyle Lowry and potentially Jason Kidd still in town, adding a forward just seems to make more sense. Carroll remains an effective player to this day for Toronto.
I will say, though, I thought Williams was going to turn out as one of the best players from that 2009 lottery - and I thought that without bias. Look, the Big East used to be something special and when he was at Louisville, Williams dominated with his strength and, like Carroll, physicality. It's too bad things didn't work out in New Jersey, though...
4 2010: Paul George (3rd) & Hassan Whiteside (27th)
Old Picks: Derrick Favors & Jordan Crawford
Honestly, for as much as I wanted the Nets to draft Wesley Johnson due to him being from Syracuse, I also wanted them to go for Fresno State's Paul George. Everything about this kid screamed superstar in the making - his playmaking ability, his explosiveness, his character - and it really is sad he couldn't end up in New Jersey. Playing in a big market like the New Jersey area might have made George an even bigger star. Although, given the Nets' 'success', maybe him landing in Indiana was best.
As for Whiteside, people forget that he was raw coming out of college and needed some seasoning. That's what being a late first-rounder on a contending team will get you, as evidenced by...
3 2011: Jimmy Butler
Old Pick: JaJuan Johnson
By the time the 2011 NBA Draft hits in this universe, the Nets are rolling with a lineup of Kyle Lowry, Joe Johnson, Paul George, Paul Millsap, and Brook Lopez with Danny Granger, Marc Gasol, and Tony Allen providing sparks off the bench. The Nets selecting Butler here is pretty much what it was for the Bulls: it's simply a best player available pick, but Butler has that defensive prowess the Nets could use.
With Tony Allen, a similar player to Butler on paper but with far worse offensive skills, still on the roster, Butler could learn from the former first-rounder on how to dominate even more on defense. It's a pick that by all means should work and, with how well Butler could contain superstars even in his first couple of seasons, will work.
2 2013: Mason Plumlee
Old Pick: Mason Plumlee
This pick was the right one from the start. Brooklyn needed a big man as depth for Brook Lopez and Plumlee was by far the best available pick. Plumlee had some good seasons with the Nets, but was traded after the 2014-15 season along with Pat Connaughton, to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Steve Blake and the draft rights to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Even though it didn't turn out to be a long-term solution for the Nets, the 2013 draft was really weak and there really weren't any better options for Brooklyn.
Because the Plumlee pick was so recent, I won't spend too much time talking about it because events would have likely been the same here as they were in real life.
1 2015: Chris McCullough
Old Pick: Chris McCullough
What? Is it possible that Billy King, arguably the worst general manager in NBA history, actually got his final two first-round draft picks right? Well...I don't know if I'd quite say that, but the truth is that it's way, way too early to put anyone over McCullough with how little the players after him have contributed. We'll have to wait a little while longer to get a definitive answer.
And yes, another big man. This has been the article of re-drafting big men, but after all of the NBA titles the Nets most likely would have won, I get the feeling they'd be alright with that.
Which players would you have taken over the ones the Nets initially drafted? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!