After finishing with the worst record in the league in 1989-90, the Nets were rewarded with the number one pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. They selected Syracuse big man Derrick Coleman with the pick. In the next draft, they selected Georgia Tech and New York City legend, Kenny Anderson, with the second overall pick. They also traded with the Portland Trail Blazers to acquire Yugoslavian swingman Drazen Petrovic.
With that trio intact, things looked very bright for the Nets future. In 1992-93, with former Detroit Pistons head coach Chuck Daly leading the team, the Nets saw a rapid rise in the Eastern Conference. They made the playoffs, where they faced the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, with both Anderson and Petrovic sidelined by injury, the Nets bowed out after a hard-fought five-game series.
Before the 1993-94 season, Petrovic tragically lost his life in an auto-accident in Germany. Anderson and Coleman were named to the 1994 All-Star team and the Nets won 45 games that year.
However, that was the end of the Nets’ ascension to the top of the East. Coleman’s selfish attitude took away from his stellar talent. He and Anderson often butted heads and by 1996, both wound up on different teams. Coleman was with the Philadelphia 76ers, while Anderson was with the Charlotte Hornets.