An eastern conference scout sizes up what he calls "one of the least talented Finals I can remember—each team has only one superstar. We're down to Tim Duncan versus Jason Kidd, the best players in each conference, with a lot of young role players thrown in. Which of those stars proves to be more dominant will determine who wins the championship." Here are the scout's views on the head-to-head matchups of the starters.
RICHARD JEFFERSON, SF, Nets
Kidd gets him eight points a game on the fast break alone. In the half-court Jefferson likes to drive for the dunk or take a dribble or two and pull up. Look for Bowen, one of the most physical defenders in the league, to crowd him. When Jefferson drives, Bowen will back up to protect the basket, but he's quick enough to still contest the jumper.
KENYON MARTIN, PF, Nets
Martin has had an excellent postseason, but that's about to end. There's no way—no way—he can guard Duncan, who can shoot over him or punish him on the low block. I give Martin credit for wanting the challenge of covering him, but it's too much. I don't see Martin hurting Duncan at the other end either, except when the Nets are out on the break.
JASON COLLINS, C, Nets
Collins is the Nets' fifth option; if he gives them six to 10 points, that's a huge lift. Yet the Spurs have to keep an eye on him because he can hit the jumper from the elbow and he's so active on the boards. He's been effective on the offensive glass because he's much bigger than the centers in the East—but he won't be able to rebound over Robinson.
KERRY KITTLES, SG, Nets
He's the Nets' best outside shooter, the main guy you have to pick up in transition because he can kill you with spot-up threes. In every game there's a short stretch when they run him off screens to establish his jump shot and force the defense to pay attention to him. That gives them balance, stretches out the defense and helps open things up.
JASON KIDD, PG, Nets
The only way the Nets have a chance is if Kidd dominates Parker and gets in his head so that his decision making suffers. And Kidd can dominate in all sorts of ways—by making steals, by hitting the key shots. Kidd isn't a great shooter, but when he's hitting he becomes almost unstoppable. I'm sure they'll take advantage of his size and post him up on Parker.
BRUCE BOWEN, SF, Spurs
If 29 teams had their choice of Jefferson or Bowen, 28 would choose Jefferson. But who has the advantage in this series? I think Bowen's defense will negate Jefferson, who's a big part of the Nets' offense. And Bowen led the league in three-point-shooting percentage, which means Jefferson won't be able to leave him to help out on Duncan.
TIM DUNCAN, PF, Spurs
People are right to talk about how much Kidd helps his teammates, but you can say the same about Duncan. When he's doubled or tripled, he makes the smart pass for an open jumper. That's given the other Spurs a lot of confidence and has allowed the team to be better than the sum of its parts. Whether he's at the four or the five, he's the focus of everything they do.
DAVID ROBINSON, C, Spurs
At 37 he isn't very active. How effective he is has a lot less to do with his opponent than with how much energy he has in his legs, so having almost a week off before the Finals should help him. If he scores on a put-back or two early on, that could mean he has enough in the tank for a 14-to 20-point game. Otherwise, it'll be one of those nights he looks his age.
STEPHEN JACKSON, SG, Spurs
The Nets didn't re-sign Jackson in 2001, and I imagine he'll be juiced up to play against them. The biggest difference in his game since he's come to the Spurs is that he's improved his shot and can knock down the three. Then, when you go out to guard him, he can get by you. On defense Jackson can be exploited off the dribble or in the low post.