Nets All-Time Top 25: No. 8 Richard Jefferson
Dynamic forward helped lift Nets to two NBA Finals
The selections for the Nets All-Time Top 25 Team were made by the author, with no input from the Brooklyn Nets organization. Selections were based on a combination of individual performance, team success and their contribution to it, and longevity with the franchise.
Rod Thorn’s first big move in the summer of 2001 wasn’t the July trade for Jason Kidd, but the draft night deal that made Richard Jefferson a Net.
Originally armed with the seventh overall pick, Thorn selected local favorite Eddie Griffin out of nearby Seton Hall University. But he sent Griffin to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Jefferson, the 13th overall pick, plus two more first-round selections: No. 18 Jason Collins and No. 23 Brandon Armstrong. While Armstrong was little-used over three seasons, Collins would join Jefferson in making a significant impact dawning Net renaissance.
The retooled Nets of the 2001-02 season featured Kidd taking over at point guard, the return of Kerry Kittles from a knee injury, and the rookie Jefferson stepping directly into a sixth-man role. Over seven seasons with the Nets, Jefferson would grow into an ideal running mate for his legendary point guard and become a star in his own right, twice averaging 20-plus points per game for a season.
After helping the Nets to their first Eastern Conference championship as a rookie, Jefferson stepped into a starting role in year two, averaging 15.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and shooting 50 percent from the field as the Nets repeated as conference champs and made their second straight NBA Finals appearance before falling to the San Antonio Spurs in six games.
The 6-foot-7 swingman continued to elevate his game, averaging 22.2 points during a 2004-05 season shortened to 33 games by a wrist injury. The following year he helped the Nets to their fourth division title in his five seasons with the team.
After averaging a career high 22.6 points per game in 2007-08, Jefferson was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He concluded his Nets career averaging 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 47.5 percent in 489 games.
Jefferson is fourth all-time in minutes played as a Net, behind only Buck Williams, Jason Kidd and Brook Lopez. He’s also fourth in total points scored with 8,507, behind Lopez, Williams and Vince Carter.