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Nets' gain?

No. 1 picks don't often lead their first teams to titles

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Latest: Sunday August 27, 2000 07:41 PM

  Kenyon Martin Kenyon Martin will have to come up big if New Jersey wants to win its first postseason series since 1984. Jonathan Daniel/Allsport

By Desmond M. Wallace,

With the first pick of the 2000 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets selected Cincinnatiís Kenyon Martin. And after passing a detailed team physical which included a thorough examination of his right leg, Martin signed a three-year contract with the club, worth a rookie-maximum $11.3 million. A fourth-year team option would increase the deal to $16.5 million.

The Nets are hoping the investment in the No. 1 overall pick will pay big dividends and reverse the franchiseís recent trend of futility.

New Jersey has qualified for the playoffs only once in the last six seasons and hasnít won a postseason series since 1984. It was 16 years ago that the Nets shocked the basketball world by ousting defending NBA champion Philadelphia in the first round. In the intervening decade-and-a-half, the Nets have won all of four playoff games.

But Martinís selection as the top pick in the draft was the source of serious speculation right until Draft Night. Back in March, the 6-foot-9 Martin broke his right tibia during a Conference USA tournament game. The injury not only placed into question Martinís position in the draft but effectively ended the Bearcats' hopes of winning their first national title since 1962.

Net Losses
The woeful NBA rankings of the 1999-2000 New Jersey Nets
Category  Nets  Ranking 
FG pct.  43.3  26th 
Opp. FG pct.  46.4  24th 
RPG  40.9  T25th 
Def. RPG  28.2  29th 


There will certainly be a good deal of pressure on Martin to succeed in New Jersey. In June, center Jayson Williams, who averaged double-digit rebounds for the Nets in each of his last four seasons, announced his retirement from the NBA. Williams had broken his right leg with 50 seconds left in a game against the Hawks on April 1, 1999 during an on-court collision with teammate Stephon Marbury and hadnít played a game since. Not surprisingly, then, New Jersey ranked near the bottom of every statistical muscle category, including rebounding and field-goal percentage.

Can Martin help turn the Nets around? History tells us that despite New Jerseyís desperation to produce a winner, the Nets should probably be patient with their young star. Since 1970 only six NBA top picks went on to win championships with their original team. Most recently, the Spursí Tim Duncan, who was selected first overall in 1997, helped San Antonio win the 1999 NBA title.

Picking 'em right
No. 1 overall draft picks who went on to win the NBA title since 1970
Player  Team  Year  Years to NBA title 
Bill Walton  Blazers  1974 
Magic Johnson  Lakers  1979 
James Worthy  Lakers  1982 
Hakeem Olajuwon  Rockets  1984  10 
David Robinson  Spurs  1987  12 
Tim Duncan  Spurs  1997 

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