Updated: Oct. 27, 2006, 12:03 PM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Nets fishing for complements

Nets

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the New Jersey Nets finish in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference? Get 10 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST COMMENT
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
Vince Carter will opt out after the season, which is good news for N.J., because I think he'll be motivated to have his best season as a pro. But the team's lack of a consistent interior impact and the inability to make perimeter shots are two things keeping them from the Finals.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
Exciting, dangerous, fun to watch and the class of the Atlantic Division. But just too darn soft inside (even with Nenad Krstic) to really scare the East elite. Nets remain an enforcer away from being legitimate contenders.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
Other than Nenad Krstic's natural improvement, Vince being in a contract year and J-Kidd burning to match Gary Payton's ring collection, there's not much reason to believe they'll be any better than last year. Which makes the second round as far as they can go.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
The Big 3 (Kidd, Carter, Jefferson) should be enough to carry them through the weakest division in the NBA. Even with an aging backcourt and a lack of depth in the frontcourt, their 42 to 44 wins should be enough to capture the Atlantic.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
An overrated team that basically maxed out last season and still failed to scare the conference's elite. Team needs a radical improvement in bench production but had no money to spend, so Eddie House's knee injury is a very bad sign.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 8
Scoop
Jackson

ESPN.com
Got tricked last season into saying they would win the chip. And for a few games they made me look like Isaac (the artist/painter) on "Heroes." The question now: Will we ever see the old Jason Kidd again?
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
Still the class of the division with the explosive trio of Carter, Kidd and Jefferson, and Krstic continues to improve. If rookie Marcus Williams is the real deal, they will blow the rest of the division away.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
Still the best of a weak division, they have strong leadership from Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson, which should be enough. They lack depth at the bigs but will defend you.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
This is the easiest divisional pick, it's just a matter of trying to foretell where their victory total comes in. As long as Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson stay healthy, they should get to 55.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 3
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
They might well be the only playoff-bound team from the league's weakest division, and thus guaranteed a top-four seed, but it's hard to find a GM or scout who rates this largely unchanged group higher than sixth in the East.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 1.1 | Standings

CONFERENCE: 4.3 | Standings


The Apprentice
Williams and Kidd
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
Nets rookie point guard Marcus Williams could learn much from his hardwood Mr. Miyagi, Jason Kidd. The Nets hope Williams becomes the elusive quality backup point man they've sought.


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Jason Kidd
Point Guard
6-4 | 210
More 'mates clamoring for shots means fewer of his own shaky J's.
Vince Carter
Shooting Guard
6-6 | 220
Still scary going to rim, but terrifying with big bucks as motivation.
Richard Jefferson
Small Forward
6-7 | 225
Improved handle means he won't just sit in a corner anymore.
Jason Collins
Power Forward
7-0 | 255
Seven feet of help defender.
Nenad Krstic
Center
7-0 | 255
If playoffs were a sign (16 and 7), Nets have a legit post man.
Bench: Frontcourt is understocked (Cliff Robinson and Mile Ilic). And if Marcus Williams could shoot like Eddie House, the Nets would have Kidd's successor.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Eddie House
Player efficiency rating
projection: 14.65
vs. NBA avg.: -0.35
Nets profiles

Scouting report: Though used as a point guard last season, House is better off as a shooting guard, since he doesn't have to worry about involving others at that spot. He's great at firing jumpers off the dribble, from either 2-point or 3-point range, but hardly ever ventures inside 18 feet for shot.

House is a poor defender and distributor, and those weaknesses caused him to fall out of favor when he hit a shooting slump in the postseason. Without his usual scoring kick -- he shot just 36.5 percent in the playoffs -- there's little reason to keep him on the court, so he's always one bad week away from the pine.

2006-07 outlook: House opted out of his contract and signed with New Jersey as a free agent. Although the deal again appears to be a bargain, it will pay him more than the pittance he made in Phoenix, and could provide a great opportunity. The Nets have been desperate for bench scoring for years, and the one thing House can do is score in bunches.

Additionally, playing alongside Jason Kidd should allow him to see minutes at shooting guard, because Kidd can defend the opposing shooting guard and prevent House from being overwhelmed defensively. The one potential fly in the ointment is Lawrence Frank's preference for gritty, defensive-minded role players. But if House can deliver a few of those scorching-hot fourth quarters he gave the Suns, Frank will have to hold his nose and watch the show. One potential complication is a torn meniscus House suffered in training camp, which likely will cost him the first month of the season and could complicate his efforts to establish a major role upon his return.


The Meadowlands Magician
Carter
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
Vince Carter turns 30 on January 26, and has shown no signs of decline in his deadly combination of jumping and shooting ability. In 11 playoff games last season, he averaged 29.6 ppg.


SportsNation Speaks
The Nets' search for a title formula remains a topic of much interest. So SportsNation weighs in on just what Jersey needs.

What do the Nets need to improve to go to the next level?
58.7% Bench play
19.3% Post play
9.3% The play of the big three of Kidd, Carter and Jefferson
9.3% Defense
3.4% Offensive balance

Vote: Nets in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Nets

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Nets' logo on your chest?

As usual, the Nets' fortunes lie with their Big Three-and-a-Half: Kidd, Carter, Jefferson, and, depending on traffic, Krstic. But to earn the right to raise the O'Brien Popcorn Tub, the kids must soar.

I'm talking about the heist of '06, Marcus Williams, Josh Boone and Hassan Adams, plus a magically transformed Antoine Wright.

They must carve out a niche as the "Little Three-and-a-Half" (Boone getting points deducted while nursing his bum wing), propelling the team to its first NBA title with their energy, quickness, and solid D.

Oh, and the Nets would have to change their logo to a likeness of Jay-Z's gal, Beyonce.

Dumpy | netsdaily.com



Coach's Corner

LAWRENCE FRANK COACHING FILE
Experience: 3 years
Record: 116-88
Playoffs: 12-14
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

New Jersey's best players form one of the top foursomes in the league. Lawrence Frank will look to create opportunities for rotation players five, six and seven to make sizeable impacts.

He must allow his second unit to get enough minutes to create an identity for themselves, and trust them to develop through some growing pains early.

The Nets are close to being title contenders but must have their big four feeling fresh come June.

If he rides those guys too early to ensure some W's, they may have nothing left late when the team needs them most.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst



Hollinger's Team Strength
Perimeter offense. If the NBA ever switched to a 3-on-3 format, the Nets would be golden, because Kidd, Carter and Jefferson are as potent a perimeter trio as there is in the league.

Carter's 2005-06 wasn't as awe-inspiring as his season-ending run the year before, but he put together a solid All-Star campaign and didn't settle for jumpers like in previous seasons.

Jefferson is another near-All-Star caliber performer whose ability to get easy baskets in transition helps make up for the Nets' inadequacies in the half court.

And Kidd, of course, is a brilliant passer as well as an underrated 3-point shooter when his feet are set.

Added to the picture this season is House, a scoring machine in Phoenix a year ago whose shoot-first tendencies shouldn't be troublesome on a second unit where nobody else can score.

More Hollinger Nets analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Jefferson
Jefferson

Sleeper: Richard Jefferson is supremely talented and is still entering the prime of his career. Expect Jefferson to average at least 20 points per game and match his '05-06 totals.

Vince Carter has been healthy since joining the Nets, but since he's always a threat to go down, Jefferson would be a major beneficiary of the extra shots that would become available.

Bust: When a team has only four viable fantasy options like the Nets do, it's tough to find a true bust. While Nenad Krstic appears to be a solid center, it doesn't appear he'll ever reach the upper crust of the NBA.

He's not physical enough to improve greatly on the glass and as the fourth option on offense, he won't make any major gains there, either. What you see is what you get with Krstic.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index

 

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