A look at some of the biggest Nets hits and misses in NBA Draft history

Alex Smith
·10 min read
Brook Lopez and Ed O'Bannon
Brook Lopez and Ed O'Bannon

No NBA teams hit on all their draft picks. It’s just the nature of the draft.

But the good teams have more hits than misses, and the key is trying to string the stronger picks together to build a young core of players.

Like all teams, the Nets, both while they were in New Jersey and now in Brooklyn, have had their great draft picks, and they’ve had some picks they’d like to redo.

Here’s a look at some of the Nets best and worst draft picks …

Hits

Caris LeVert (2016 first round, 20th pick)

Drafted with pick No. 20 in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Nets found themselves a potential steal in LeVert. Injuries at the University of Michigan hurt his draft stock, but the 6-foot-6 wing averaged 16.5 points per game during his senior season.

LeVert would go on to average 8.2 points per game over 57 games in the 2016-17 season, and just missed the NBA All-Rookie team, finishing No. 12 in voting for a 10-man team.

After showing continued progress at the NBA-level, the Nets resigned LeVert to a three-year, $52.5 million deal on Aug. 26, 2019. He would go on to score a career-high 51 points, including 37 in the fourth quarter and overtime, on March 3 against the Boston Celtics. 

LeVert averaged a career-high 18.7 points per game during the 2019-20 season, and looks to still be an ascending talent, as well as a foundational piece for a star-studded Nets team.

Kenyon Martin (2000 first round, 1st pick)

Martin was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft out of the University of Cincinnati. He led the Bearcats to a 29-4 record as a senior, and was awarded all of the major player of the year awards. However, Martin suffered a broken leg during the Conference USA Tournament and missed the NCAA Tournament.

Martin would go on to average 12 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game as a rookie, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team after finishing second in voting for NBA Rookie of the Year.

Along with Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, and Richard Jefferson, the Nets went from worst to first in the 2001-02 season. They won their first Eastern Conference title and eventually were swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Nets would head back to the NBA Finals in 2002-03, but lose to the San Antonio Spurs in six games.

Martin upped his game the following year, averaging 16.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game to earn his first All-Star selection. Although, the 2003-2004 season was the last Martin played in a Nets uniform as the team sent him to the Denver Nuggets for three future first-round picks in a sign-and-trade deal during the offseason.

Brook Lopez (2008 first round, 10th pick)

Standing seven feet tall, Lopez was drafted tenth overall by the Nets in the 2008 NBA Draft – five picks ahead of his twin brother, Robin Lopez. He was an All-Pac-10 First Team and All-American Third Team during his sophomore season at Stanford before declaring for the NBA Draft.

He finished third in voting for NBA Rookie of the Year and was named to the All-NBA Rookie Team after averaging 13.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during the 2008-2009 season. Lopez earned his first and only All-Star selection in 2013 after posting 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, and a new career-high 2.1 blocks per game.

On June 22, 2017, Lopez was traded by the Nets along with the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft (Kyle Kuzma) in exchange for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. Lopez ended his Nets career as the franchise leader in field goals, points, and blocks.

Kerry Kittles (1996 first round, 8th pick)

With the No. 8 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Nets infamously selected Kittles out of Villanova over another young Philadelphia star – Kobe Bryant.

Despite taking Kittles over Bryant, the 6’5” guard had earned the 1995 Big East Player of the Year award over Allen Iverson and Ray Allen. He was also a first-team All-American in 1996 and holds the Villanova University record for most points scored, with 2,243.

Kittles averaged 16.4 points as a rookie, earning NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors. He then scored 18.2 points per game during his second season before injuries started to derail his career. From 1998 to 2000, Kittles played in only 108 games of the possible 164 games. He would then miss the entire 2000-01 season due to a knee injury.

The wing scorer returned from injury strong, and helped the Nets make back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003 after averaging about 13 points per game on 40 percent shooting from three-point range.

After the 2004 season, Kittles signed with the Los Angeles Clippers and played just 11 games there before retiring due to injuries.

P.J. Brown (1992 second round, 29th pick)

The 1992 draft was very top heavy (as a lot of drafts are), with Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, and Christian Laettner going in the first three picks. The Nets didn’t have a first round pick that year, but with their 29th overall selection (the second pick of the second round), the Nets landed power forward P.J. Brown out of Louisiana Tech.

After playing a year of professional basketball in Greece, Brown joined the Nets in 1993-94 and went on to have three solid years in New Jersey, increasing his scoring output every year, culminating with an 11.3-point and 6.9-rebound season in 1995-96. Overall, Brown started 198 games for the Nets, not too shabby for a second-round pick.

Brown went on to enjoy a 15-year career in the NBA, playing with the Nets, Hornets, Heat, Bulls, and Celtics, winning a title with Boston in the final year of his career in 2007-08.

Misses

Yinka Dare (1994 first round, 14th pick)

A Nigerian-born center listed at 7-foot-1, Dare hadn’t played much basketball before coming to the United States. After one year of high school ball, he excelled at George Washington, and the Nets took a chance on him with the 14th pick in 1994.

The Nets selected Dare with players like Aaron McKie, Eric Piatkowski, Monty Williams, Charlie Ward, and Howard Eisley still on the board.

Dare played just three minutes as a rookie before tearing his ACL, and when he finally got back on the floor in 1995-96, his production was nowhere near what the Nets thought it would be, as the big man averaged just 2.8 points and 3.1 rebounds while playing just 10.8 minutes per game.

He went on to play just 41 games the next season and then just 10 the year after, ending his NBA career after just four seasons and 110 games.

Marcus Williams and Josh Boone (2006 first round, 22nd and 23rd picks)

The Nets had back-to-back picks later in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft, and they went with a pair of UConn products in point guard Marcus Williams and center/forward Josh Boone.

Williams played just two seasons with the Nets before being traded to the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2008. In 132 games with the team, he averaged 6.4 points and 3.0 assists. He played just four seasons in the NBA before heading overseas.

Boone, meanwhile, played four seasons with the Nets, but those were his only seasons in the league. The 6-foot-10 power forward/center had his best year in 2007-08, starting 53 games and averaging 8.2 points and 7.3 rebounds for a Nets team that won just 34 games. Boone was also a member of the 2009-10 Nets team that went 12-70.

When the Nets took those two players back-to-back, they passed up on players like Kyle Lowry, Steve Novak, Paul Millsap, Shannon Brown, P.J. Tucker, and Jordan Farmer, among others.

Zoran Planinic (2003 first round, 22nd pick)

A 6-foot-7 combo guard from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the MVP of the Croatian League in 2001, Planinic was a disastrous pick in a 2003 NBA Draft that could be the best in the history of the sport. The Nets took Planinic with players like Travis Outlaw, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, and Josh Howard (all of whom ended up going in the first round) on the board.

Planinic played three seasons with the Nets, averaging just 3.8 points and 1.1 assists in 10.7 minutes per game. He played 148 games, making just 10 starts, while shooting just 40.5 percent from the floor and 28.9 percent from three-point range.

The Nets ended up buying out Planinic’s contract in the summer of 2006, ending his NBA career.

Ed O’Bannon (1995 first round, 9th pick)

A Wooden Award winner and National Champion with UCLA, the Nets selected O’Bannon, a 6-foot-8 power forward, with the ninth pick in 1995.

But as great of a collegiate player as he was, the former Pac-10 Co-Player of the Year just never saw his NBA career get off the ground, as he struggled with his confidence and with injuries. During his rookie year in New Jersey, O’Bannon averaged 6.2 points and 2.6 rebounds, playing nearly 20 minutes per game.

But his second year was even less productive, as he dropped down to 4.2 points and 2.5 rebounds, and after 45 games that season, the Nets traded him to Dallas, where he played 19 more games before his NBA career came to an end.

What makes O’Bannon’s incredibly brief NBA career even more painful for the Nets is how many players selected after him enjoyed long stints in the league. Kurt Thomas, Corliss Williamson, Eric Williams, Brent Barry, Alan Henderson, Bob Sura, Theo Ratliff, Michael Finley, Travis Best, and Greg Ostertag were all drafted in the first round after O’Bannon, and all enjoyed NBA career of at least 10 seasons.

Sean Williams (2007 first round, 17th overall)

A shot-blocking presence while at BC, Williams had trouble away from the court even before entering the league, as he was dismissed from the BC team for a number of rules violations.

But the Nets still took a chance on him in 2007, taking him with the 17th pick. Unfortunately, his legal issues continued, as he was arrest multiple times.

On the court, Williams averaged 4.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks with the Nets in 126 games with New Jersey. He was eventually assigned to the D-League before ultimately being released by the Nets in January 2010.

Hindsight is 20/20, but the Nets would have been better off taking players like Marco Bellinelli, Wilson Chandler, Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry, or Glen Davis in that spot, though the best pick likely would have been Marc Gasol, who was taken 31 picks after Williams at the 48th spot by the Los Angeles Lakers