This is a revised and updated version of a NetsDaily Blog post written the day after the NBA Draft in 2007. It's still valid as a cautionary tale for GM's and the fans who trust them.
Whoever gets picked Thursday is not going to be under as much pressure as some from the ghost of Nets Drafts Past.
For years, the Nets lost all measure of control when describing the potential of their draft picks. It dropped off a bit last year with the change from Ed Stefanski to Kiki Vandeweghe, but you have to be careful. No every pick is Magic Johnson…or Allan Houston, for that matter.
Last year, Vandeweghe restrained himself when talking about the three picks at #10, #21 and #40—it also helped that the picks succeeded so no one remembered what he said. But for years, the Nets former GM got really happy the day of the draft.
A review of those gushing notices since 2003 shows just how happy he could get. Christian Drejer, Mile Ilic and Hassan Adams were all second round picks, but all with first round talent, no doubt.
In fact, some of the individual comments now sound quite comical: Drejer..."this kid can compete". His nickname in Spain was "El Enigma", in Spain, "Il Depresso" in Italy...really. Ilic..."not a project". Didn’t score a single point in the NBA. And the classics: Antoine Wright..."similar to Allan Houston". Has a 29.1% career percentage from deep. Marcus Williams…" a big, big upside". Out of the league after being traded by the Nets and cut by the Warriors and of course, Sean Williams…"I would compare him to a young Kenyon Martin". Let me count the ways…No.
The only draft choice who didn't get universally glowing reviews from Easy Ed was Josh Boone in 2006. Boone, said Stefanski, had been "disappointing" and the two had a "blunt" conversation before the draft. Still picked him.
Culled from beat reporters' coverage of the Nets' post-draft press conferences since 2004, here are post-draft assessments:
"He's poised and confident, a true point guard," said Nets' assistant general manager Ed Stefanski...
Stefanski said playing with Kidd will help Planinic's maturity and understanding of the game. And he should flourish running with Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson, and Kerry Kittles.
"I really believe a kid like him is going to excel when there are better players on the floor," Stefanski said. "He pushes the ball as well as a lot of people."
--The Record, July 17, 2003.
"We're happy. We didn't think Christian Drejer would be on the board," said Ed Stefanski, Nets senior VP of Basketball Operations. "We had him ranked 30-35 in the draft and he dropped. . . . This kid is talented. He has a lot of skills."
--New York Post, June 24, 2004.
"Down the line, we think this kid can compete," said Ed Stefanski, the Nets senior vice president of basketball operations. Stefanski described Drejer as an excellent ballhandler who passes well and shoots better standing still than off the dribble. He needs to increase his strength.
--AP, June 24, 2004.
"He's a good shooter, similar to Allan Houston," Nets general manager Ed Stefanski said.
--Bridgewater Courier-News, June 30, 2005.
"He could be a good shooter similar to Allan Houston," general manager Ed Stefanski said.
--The Record, June 30, 2005.
"He could be a good shooter similar to Allan Houston," Nets general manager Ed Stefanski said. "And he can defend. We wanted Wright all the way."
--New York Daily News, June 30, 2005.
Stefanski said the Nets had been following Ilic for three years. "He's like Krstic in some ways, but he's a better athlete," Stefanski said. "He has more bounce."
--Bridgewater Courier-News, June 30, 2005.
As for Ilic, Stefanski said the 21-year-old center probably would be a first-round pick next year. He dubbed Ilic as "better than a project."
"He has good length," Stefanski said. "He's athletic. He has an excellent jump hook. He needs a move to counter that. We're very happy with this selection."
--Asbury Park Press, June 29, 2005.
GM Ed Stefanski said the magic words: "Mile is like (Nenad) Krstic, but a much better athlete."
--Newark Star-Ledger, June 30, 2005.
Ed Stefanski says: "We thought if he left the draft and was in next year, he would be bona fide first-round pick. He's not a project."
--New York Daily News, June 29, 2005.
''He fell to us; we are ecstatic,'' Ed Stefanski, the Nets' general manager, said at the team's practice facility. ''We had him ranked as the best point guard, by far, in the draft.''
--New York Times, June 29, 2006.
"We got our guy," said Stefanski, who had searched for an adequate backup for Jason Kidd for five years. "We never expected to get Marcus Williams. We were ecstatic, we had him ranked as the highest point guard by far. To get him at 22 ... We felt he's a young kid who can learn under a future Hall of Famer and help our cause.
"He's a true point guard. Great great vision, great in pick-and-roll situations, he'll get open shots for people. He'll have to work on his shot, but it's not bad. So he has a big, big upside."
--Newark Star-Ledger, June 29, 2006.
Boone is coming off a disappointing junior season when he averaged 10.3 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. He's limited offensively, but the Nets pointed to his strong defense and rebounding skills.
As a sophomore, Boone averaged 12.4 points, 8.4 boards and 2.9 blocks. Stefanski said he had a very "blunt" conversation with Boone about playing like he did as a sophomore.
--The Record, June 29, 2006.
The 6-foot-10, 237-pound Boone is not much of a scorer but was a monster rebounder and shot-blocker for UConn -- two skills the Nets sorely need -- during his tenure at UConn. He averaged 10.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in a junior season that was widely considered a disappointment but still ranked among the top offensive rebounders in the nation.
"He did not have the year I expected," Stefanski said. "But this kid is 6-foot-10, runs the floor, has a terrific pair of hands on him, and is a very good rebounder and shot-blocker, which we desperately need."
--Bridgewater Courier-News, June 29, 2006.
Arizona guard Hassan Adams, the Nets' second-round pick, was not at the news conference. He is mending a stress fracture in his foot that he suffered during a recent workout with the Nets.
Stefanski said the Nets were considering taking Adams at No. 23 before deciding on Boone. They were thrilled when Adams was still available at No. 54.
--AP, June 29, 2006.
General manager Ed Stefanski called Williams "an NBA shot- blocker extraordinaire" and "an NBA athlete extraordinaire," at Monday's introductory news conference. The Nets hope Williams can be the shot blocker and intimidator that Martin was before leaving for Denver three years ago.
"Sean Williams is the guy that can bring what we need," Stefanski said. "I would compare him to a young Kenyon Martin, an athletic big who can run the floor. He jumps as well as Kenyon did. He covers the floor side to side defensively as well. He will cover multiple positions. So when we were looking at him, we saw similarities."
--The Record, July 3, 2007.
As for basketball, GM Ed Stefanski said the two magic words yesterday: Without solicitation, the Nets GM compared Williams to Kenyon Martin - more than once - and reiterated that Williams was "the best athlete in the draft."
--Newark Star-Ledger, July 3, 2007.
"I would compare him to a young Kenyon Martin -- an athletic big man who can run the floor," Ed Stefanski, the Nets' general manager, said Monday at a news conference to introduce Williams, the team's 2007 draft pick. "He jumps as well as Kenyon did. He covers the floor side-to-side defensively as well."
--New York Times, July 3, 2007.
"I would compare him to a young Kenyon Martin: an athletic big who can run the floor, he jumps as well as Kenyon did, he covers the floor side to side as well," said Nets General Manager Ed Stefanski at today’s press conference.
"He will cover multiple positions. When we were looking at him we saw similarities and I don’t want to put pressure on Sean to say he is the next Kenyon Martin but he was like a Kenyon Martin type of player out there."
We appreciated Vandeweghe’s low key assessment of Brook Lopez, who he called simply "a good big man" rather than, say, a Tim Duncan clone.
"We got a good big man, and the Nets traditionally have been a perimeter team. We've suffered with a lack of interior scoring and interior defense, and we needed a true center. Lopez is a true center," said Vandeweghe.
--Newark Star-Ledger, June 27, 2008
We like that.