New York, New Jersey, and Brooklyn fans have seen some of the best players in basketball history, although not always at their peaks. These stars have thrilled the tristate area crowds and won two ABA titles, but never brought an NBA championship to New York City’s other franchise. But who are the best and greatest Nets players in history? We’ll try to figure that out here with the all-time top-10 Nets player rankings.
These all-time top-10 Nets player rankings are based on what these stars did in a New York, New Jersey, or Brooklyn uniform and how they contributed to the franchise. So, while James Harden and Kevin Garnett are top-75 players in NBA history, their short tenures with the franchise doesn’t put them on this list.
With apologies to some of the near-misses for this list, like Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, and Kenny Anderson, here are the 10 greatest Nets players in team history, ranked.
10. Kevin Durant
This was a difficult choice near the back end of the top-10 Nets player rankings. In the mix here were grinders who helped the Nets organization win games over a long period of time, like Jefferson, Martin, and Anderson, and superstars who showed up for just a few years but were among the best players in their leagues at the time.
Ultimately, on a best Nets players list, the shooting stars (no pun intended) won out over the lesser, longer-tenured players.
So, with that in mind, Kevin Durant kicks off the list of greatest Nets players in history.
Just the act of signing with the Brooklyn Nets over all the other teams pursuing him — including the New York Knicks — is a major moment in Nets history. And when Durant was healthy and on the court (which only happened 129 times in three-and-a-half seasons), he was one of the three or four best players in the NBA.
KD had a higher scoring average with the Nets than any other of his teams, putting in 29.0 points per game. He also shot 40% from 3-point range, while adding 5.8 assists and 7.1 rebounds. Plus, he is the franchise leader in free throw percentage at 91.0%.
And the truth is, despite all the drama that marked his time in Brooklyn and his partnership with Kyrie Irving and Harden, if his foot wasn’t on the line in Game 7 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, Durant and the Nets could have been NBA champions.
9. Rick Barry
Rick Barry is the second of three players on this list who was only with the franchise for a short time but made a historical impact on the league while a Net.
With all apologies to the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs, the New York/New Jersey Nets were the jewel of the American Basketball Association and the biggest reason for the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.
For two seasons, Barry was the best player on the Nets and possibly the best player in all of basketball. In two seasons, he averaged 30.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 7.2 rebounds. To this day, Barry is still the franchise leader in minutes per game (44.0) and points per game.
8. Deron Williams
As the New Jersey Nets prepared to move to Brooklyn, the team made a splash move, trading for Utah Jazz All-Star point guard Deron Williams.
Williams never seemed all that comfortable (or happy) in the tri-state area, even though he would eventually sign a massive five-year, $98.7 million contract extension. He was excellent at times, though, averaging 16.6 points and 7.5 assists per game as a Net.
In fairness to Williams, the front office never put great talent around him, settling for Joe Johnson after failing to make a Dwight Howard trade. He also led the team after the disastrous Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade with the Boston Celtics.
In the end, the Nets could have done better by Williams and vice versa. Still, he was an All-Star in New Jersey and comes in at No. 8 in these Nets player rankings.
7. Vince Carter
Vince Carter played for eight NBA teams, and his second-longest home (behind the Toronto Raptors) was with the Nets.
Carter played five seasons in New Jersey and averaged more points (23.6) assists (4.7), and rebounds (5.8) per game than at any other stop along the way. He also helped lead the team to three playoff appearances and two playoff series wins.
Together with Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd, Carter helped the Nets become one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference for half a decade. Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat always seemed to be looming to ruin their postseason, but for 82 games, this trio was excellent and maybe more importantly, incredibly exciting to watch.
6. Drazen Petrovic
Croatian sensation Drazen Petrovic is the third of four players on this greatest Nets players in history list who was only on the team for a short period of time. However, unlike the others, his Nets career was brief due to his tragic death in a car accident in 1993.
Prior to that, the Eastern European sharpshooter was on his way to becoming one of the best players in the NBA. Petrovic played his last three seasons for the Nets, and in his final two, he averaged 20.6 and 22.3 points per game while shooting 44.4% and 44.9% from 3-point range.
Those Nets squads, with stars like Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson, veterans such as Sam Bowie, Rick Mahorn, and Mo Cheeks, and youngsters Jayon Williams and Chucky Brown, could have become contenders if not for the untimely death of an incredibly talented player.
5. Derrick Coleman
Speaking of Derrick Coleman, he comes in at No. 5 on this Nets player rankings list. As the No. 1 overall pick out of Syracuse, a lot was expected of Coleman. And while he never delivered what the player taken behind him (Gary Payton) did, he still had an excellent career with New Jersey.
Coleman played five seasons for the Nets, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1990 and making an All-Star Game in 1994 and two All-NBA teams in 1993 and 1994. As one of the best Nets players ever, he averaged 19.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.
The death of Drazen Petrovic and Coleman’s own attitude at times derailed his career to a certain extent, but when the 6-foot-10 forward was good, he was very good, and that puts him on this list.
4. Buck Williams
After going through several of the best Nets players of all time and excusing their short time with the franchise, let’s celebrate a player who played in New Jersey for eight seasons, Buck Williams.
Willams played for the Nets from 1981, where he was the No. 3 overall pick, until 1989. This was one of the most successful periods in Nets' history, as the team made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons.
During his time with the Nets, Williams averaged 16.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. He also is still the franchise’s career leader in games, minutes played, free throw attempts, made free throws, offensive, defensive, and total rebounds, defensive win shares, and win shares.
Williams is also just four points behind the next player on this list as the Nets’ all-time leading scorer, which is why he comes in as the fourth-best Nets player ever.
3. Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez played in New Jersey and Brooklyn for nine seasons, even longer than Buck Williams, and is the longest-tenured gretest Nets player on this list.
The center made over his career midstream to transition from a game dominated by big men to one dominated by stretch forwards and centers. He started that transformation toward the end of his Brooklyn years, but early in his career, he was one of the best two-way centers in the NBA.
Lopez averaged 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game with the Nets and is the franchise leader in field goals, field goal attempts, blocks, and offensive win shares. The 7-foot center is also the Nets’ all-time leading scorer with 1,044 points.
During his last season in Brooklyn, Lopez went from shooting 14 3-pointers the season before to chucking up 346, which allowed his career to continue for six-plus more seasons, unfortunately not with the Nets, though.
Back to the shooting stars in Nets history, we move on to Dr. J.
Julius Erving played for the New York Nets in the ABA for three seasons just before the merger and led his team to win two of the league’s last three championships. He also won an ABA scoring title twice with the Nets, averaging 27.4 points in 1973-74 and 29.3 points in 1975-76.
All told, Erving averaged 28.2 points, 5.2 assists, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game. He was simply one of the best players of his time, and if he played more than three seasons in Long Island, he may be No. 1 on this greatest Nets players list.
Because he also revolutionized the game of basketball, pioneering the ultra-athletic, above-the-rim style we see today.
1. Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd is undoubtedly one of the best point guards of all time and the best Nets player in history.
The Nets made a blockbuster trade for the veteran guard in 2001 to have him lead a team with Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles, Keith Van Horn, and rookie Richard Jefferson. Kidd helped take the team to two straight NBA Finals in his first two seasons, losing to the dynastic Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.
Kidd made five All-Star appearances with New Jersey as well as three All-NBA teams and six All-Defensive teams. He also averaged 14.6 points, 9.1 assists, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game for the Nets. In 2001-02, he finished second in NBA MVP voting to Tim Duncan.
J-Kidd never won a title with the Nets, but he took them to the precipice twice and still has franchise career records for assists, steals, triple-doubles, and value over replacement. For these reasons and more, Jason Kidd is the greatest Nets player in history.