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Pundits starting to see Brooklyn Nets in a different light

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Christian Petersen

After weeks, if not months, of most pundits thinking the Nets were done, lottery bound, there's been somewhat of an uptick in reviews for the team's off-season ... and its 2014-15 prospects.  The players have been quietly optimistic, but then they always are.  Now, so are some of those who write for a living.

John Schuhmann of perhaps summed it up best...

Can Lopez stay healthy? What kind of player will he be after so many surgeries on his feet? Can Deron Williams get back to being Deron Williams? And what do Garnett and Kirilenko have left in the tank?

If the answer to at least one of the Lopez and Williams questions is a positive and the other isn't a clear negative, this can still be a good team, especially on offense, where Hollins will have more to work with than he did in Memphis. And beyond Cleveland and Chicago, the Eastern Conference could be wide open.

Schuhmann gives the Nets a C overall for the off-season, but B's for what they've done in the backcourt, bench and coaching.  He offers his biggest praise for the hiring of Lionel Hollins: "Lionel Hollins could be a great fit with the Nets."

Brett Pollakoff of NBC Sports sums up his view of the team's prospects this way,

If Brook Lopez and Deron Williams are indeed fully healthy, then those two along with Joe Johnson form an All-Star "Big Three" that should entertain on a nightly basis ... The Nets don’t appear to have enough firepower on the roster to hang with the most elite teams in the Eastern Conference, but they could find themselves on that second tier if it all comes together.  A finish as high as fourth and as low as seventh or eighth in the East seems reasonable.

Better than the lottery!

Pollakoff too likes the Hollins hiring.  "Hollins is a different voice, an experienced leader who should be able to command respect more immediately while coming in with a plan and a vision of how things need to get done," he writes. "He’ll demand intensity on the defensive end of the floor where Kidd perhaps did not put as much emphasis, and whether or not that message gets through and how the Nets perform there throughout the season will largely determine their fate."

Next up: Basketball Insiders, most of whose analysts think the Nets will have a hard time overcoming the loss of Paul Pierce.  Writes Moke Hamilton: "It is difficult imagining the Nets improving over last year’s 44-38 record without Paul Pierce, but it is not out of the question. If things break right for the Nets—if Brook Lopez and Deron Williams can both stay healthy and if Bojan Bogdanovic and Mirza Teletovic are difference makers—then contention is possible."

Hamilton has them finishing below the Knicks.

In a Bleacher Report video, both Howard Beck and Ric Bucher think the Nets are destined for somewhere between the sixth and eighth spot in the East, with Bucher suggesting they could win 48 games and Beck 42.