A local nucleon-nucleon potential expansion is developed in terms of orthogonal projectors. Considering the nucleon-nucleon (NN) potential as a completely phenomenological structure, the expansion provides an opportunity to obtain the NN scattering phase shifts that can be described by applying a restricted set of operators, dependent on angular and spin-isospin degrees of freedom of the interacting nucleons. The results obtained with an approximation for eight basic operators (central, spin-orbit and tensorial) are consistent with experience in the field, and provide directions for further modifications of realistic NN potentials.
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