Updated: Oct. 28, 2005, 9:35 AM ET

Nets pretty on the outside


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Where will the New Jersey Nets finish in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference? Get 12 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

Marc Stein ESPN.com
Are they big enough to knock off one of the East's three powerhouses? Doubtful. Will their perimeter trio of All-Star candidates make the elite work? Yes, indeed.
Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
Vince Carter will be around for the entire season, and no opponent will be able to keep him, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd in check at the same time. The bench has been upgraded, but there remains a serious deficiency at power forward. Over/under for home sellouts is 2½.
Will Perdue ESPN Insider
This team looks pretty on the outside (Kidd, Jefferson and Carter), but questionable on the inside. Krstic needs to continue to improve on last season and Marc Jackson needs to be consistent coming off the bench. If they can get some punch in the middle they will be the apple of many big city eyes.
Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
The Nets might have the best perimeter in the league. Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson will present difficult matchups. Lawrence Frank could sneak them into the top four in the East.
Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2

The bench is the only weakness. If they stay healthy they're in the conference finals.
Tim Legler ESPN Insider

See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the New Jersey Nets.

Scoop Jackson ESPN
Page 2

Not getting Abdur-Rahim will hurt them, but the JKidd/VC/RJeff connect will be the league's best.
John Hollinger ESPN Insider
Kidd & Co. should cruise to top of weak Atlantic Division before getting blasted in second round by either Miami or Central Division champ.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
Richard Jefferson took a step toward stardom last year. Everyone is raving about the progress Nenad Krstic made this summer. Still, rescinding the Shareef Abdur-Rahim trade should keep them from elite status in the East.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
There may not be a better point guard, two guard and small forward trio in the NBA than Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson. But the Nets do not have a strong enough frontcourt to go deep into the playoffs.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
Jason Kidd is happy and motivated and that's more important than anything. If Nenad Krstic can average a double-double (not that much of a reach if you look at his playoff stats), they're a finals contender.
Chris Broussard ESPN Insider
Best perimeter in the league, but soft up front.

Net gains
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
If his knee holds up, Jason Kidd's feet may yet carry him to that elusive title.

Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Nets roster:

Starters: Kidd, RJ and Vince are NBA's best 1-2-3 punch.
Until Marc Jackson takes his spot. Think about it.
On way to career year (22.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg) until he got hurt.
Team was 29-12 when he scored 10. Suppose he averages 12?
Averaged 27.5 ppg following December trade.
Yeah, he led the team in assists (8.3), but boards, too (7.4)?
Bench: Jeff McInnis gives Kidd and his knees a break. Newcomers Lamond Murray, Scott Padgett and Jackson join Cliff Robinson in a stacked second unit.



ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.

Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Richard Jefferson
Player Efficiency Rating
vs. NBA Avg.: +1.53

Richard Jefferson's numbers don't do him justice because he was playing out of position all season. Though technically a small forward while Eric Williams played shooting guard, Jefferson was taking on a much larger ball-handling role than he had in previous seasons and he was completely unsuited for it. That explains why his Turnover Ratio skyrocketed and his field-goal percentage dropped so much. Offensively, he was basically asked to do most of a shooting guard's job because Williams couldn't do it, and it stretched Jefferson's skill set to the limit. The other source of Jefferson's turnovers was spin moves to the basket -- he had trouble resisting the urge to use his off arm as a barrier and picked up several offensive fouls as a result.

Carter's arrival absolved him of that duty, but Jefferson almost immediately suffered a ruptured ligament in his wrist and missed the rest of the season. This season Jefferson can return to his usual offensive role -- streaking down the sidelines for fast-break dunks, taking bigger forwards off the dribble, and occasionally uncorking his improving jump shot.

In addition, Jefferson will have to be the Nets' primary wing defender because they'll be looking to keep Carter out of foul trouble. He already was one of the league's better defenders, and has the necessary athleticism and tenacity to raise it another notch. However, quicker guards give him trouble and may present matchup difficulties for New Jersey, as Miami's Dwyane Wade showed in the playoffs.

New Jersey signed Jefferson to a six-year, $76 million dollar extension prior to last season, which doesn't look so bad considering all the money teams have been throwing at second-tier stars in free agency the past two summers. As long as he comes back from the wrist injury and builds on the things he did in 2003-04, he'll provide a decent return on the investment.

-- Nets player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.

On the attack
AP/Rick Havner
Richard Jefferson's back in action now, after a torn ligament in his wrist knocked him out before New Year's Day.

SportsNation Speaks
A major downfall for the Nets last season was the anemic bench.

We asked SportsNation which acquisition would do the most to rectify the problem:

Which newcomer will boost the bench production most?
47.4% Jeff McInnis
35.5% Marc Jackson
7.6% Antoine Wright
5.4% Lamond Murray
4.1% Scott Padgett

Vote: Nets in 2005-06 | Results

Tim's Time
Vince Carter

Legs on Nets: A full season with Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd is enough to propel the Nets back into Eastern Conference contention.

Carter reverted to his high-scoring days of a few years ago when he was in Toronto and answered critics (especially yours truly) who questioned if he would ever again be a guy that could be counted on to produce All-Star numbers on a nightly basis.

Nenad Krstic was a pleasant surprise in his rookie year and should become more consistent in his sophomore campaign. The additions of Jeff McInnis (from Cleveland) and Marc Jackson (from Philadelphia) will bolster New Jersey's bench with veterans.

The Atlantic Division title is in their hands, and barring injuries, it will remain just off the Jersey Turnpike.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider

Coach's Corner
Lawrence Frank
Experience: 2 years
Reg. season record: 67-55
Playoff record: 7-8
Coach's profile

Lawrence Frank has the best perimeter in the league in Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. If the injury bug of last year is avoided they could win the Atlantic Division.

Frank needs the added deep threat of Scott Padgett and Lamond Murray and the toughness of Marc Jackson to help upgrade the Nets' 29th-ranked shooting percentage.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider

Hollinger's Q & A
Will they ever get post offense?

New Jersey has a devastating trio on the perimeter with Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, and if Antoine Wright is as good as advertised, more help is on the way. However, the Nets haven't had a true post scorer in ages. Nenad Krstic showed he can be a productive offensive player, but his game is spotting up for midrange jumpers, not establishing position on the blocks. Similarly, Jason Collins is one of the league's best post defenders, but he's practically worthless at the offensive end.

New Jersey thought it had answers in the signings of Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Robert Traylor, but the Nets rescinded both transactions after seeing the results of the players' physicals.

Instead, the Nets' best hope for post points may be Jackson, who has the width to establish position and the shooting touch to convert once he gets it. Somebody will have to provide a presence on the blocks or the Nets' halfcourt offense will be too predictable, just as it was in the four-game sweep by Miami a year ago.

More Hollinger Nets analysis Insider

Fantasy Fix

Sleeper: Nenad Krstic is only 22, and has a mere one NBA season under his 7-foot belt. The Nets waited years for him after drafting him in 2002. Don't you wait too long to draft him. He's not a big shot blocker, but 10 and 5 as a rookie should turn into 14 and 7 now, assuming he can stay out of constant foul trouble. We assume he can.

Bust: Clifford Robinson might look cool with that sweatband, but he won't look cool on your team. The Nets' frontcourt is set, and Cliffy won't find minutes easy to come by. Now 38, he hasn't shot 40 percent from the field in four seasons, topped one block per game in three, and he never cared about rebounding. Forget the name factor and look elsewhere.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index



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