ALL II’s Western Conference Round One Preview

Posted: April 28, 2012 in ALL II
Tags: , ,

Simple but hopefully detailed assessment of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.  To see our picks for the major awards and finals match up check out a soon to be posted blog post about it (Full Disclosure: That collaboration post probably won’t go up for a while, certainly not in a timely manner.  Get over it).

San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz:

Let’s not keep talking about this team as old (they have upgraded the pieces around Duncan and Parker) and lets stop talking about last year (even though I picked the Grizzlies to beat them in round one and the E.I.C. picked the Spurs to get to the finals) because Manu Ginobili’s injury restricted the team.  Everyone is healthy and should create a huge problem for not only the Jazz but the entire West.  Despite being an under-average defensive team, the Spurs have greater depth on their bench and the better perimeter player in the underrated Tony Parker.  According to the great folks at http://www.synergysportstech.com/ the Spurs will be going against a bottom five pick-and-roll defensive team.

Al Jefferson is one of my favorite bigs in the league, one of few players that demands a double team and can still dominate a game.  After Jefferson I have major questions on the effectiveness of Paul Milsap with Boris Diaw matched up against him at all places.  Sure Milsap-Jefferson-Favors line can dominate and has dominated this season but they cannot sustain that over the course of a game.  The size looks good for matching up with the Lakers but it is not helpful against the efficient Spurs team.  It should be noted that NO ONE expected Jazz basketball in the playoffs and that in itself is a major accomplishment.

Spurs in Five

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. World Champion Dallas Mavericks

My Mavs are not in a good place.  19th in scoring, out rebounded, out shot, and out manned by most ever metric available.  What’s in their favor is the reason that people doubted the Mavs last year: can a team that is so reliant on the outside shot remain red hot throughout the playoffs?  Clearly the Thunder have two top five scorers (plus the elite and recently concussed James Harden) but they also have offensive liabilities in Ibaka, Sefolosha, and Perkins.

Conversely the Mavs are only Dirk Nowitzki.  Kidd posted horrific numbers this year, Delonte West is literally four steps away from the insane asylum, and Vince Carter can accurate be described as ineffective and generally shameful.  Mavs still have the effective zone defense which led them to a top ten defensive season.  Their games have been close all season and I think this series will be MUCH closer than people think.  Talent will win out but I don’t trust 5 vs. 3 basketball granted the five for Dallas are not world beaters.

Thunder in seven.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Team versus Superstar?  High tempo offense (second fastest pace team in the league, tops in fast break points, and just fast) versus slow, half-court offense?  Nuggets versus Lakers provides a case to explore all of these concepts though we know the answer that superstars and size matter.  Kenneth Faried is a machine on the glass but the seven footers in Gasol and the most important player in the playoffs Andrew Bynum will control the glass.  The same size advantage will come into play as the Nuggets are a top five team scoring at the rim, something infinitely more challenging against the Lakers.  I am not sold on the Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo (an elite defender) combination in sticking Kobe.

Where the edge may come to Denver is the absence of Metta World Peace, the best perimeter defender on the Lakers. LA does not close out particularly well on outside shooters which may help.  JaVale McGee is on the Nuggets so they WILL lose.

Lakers in five.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul is second on my most valuable player ballot (that I do not have) and will single handedly carry the Clips to some quality wins, nothing new this season.  Paul was second in assist to turnover ratio which helps against a Grizzlies team that led the league in turnovers.  The problem is the Clips are one dimensional and the “great” Blake Griffin does not bring the proper array of moves to get through an aggressive Grizz defense.  The absence of Chauncy Billups is huge here as Griffin still can’t shoot the jumper and the Gasol – Randolph combination won’t be getting dunked on.

Zach Randolph will absolutely OWN Blake on the offensive end as people seem to casually suggest Griffin is a top ten player but does not play a lick of quality defense.  Grantland explored this issue with Sebastian Pruiti, founder of the NBA Playbook blog writing: “As good as Blake Griffin is on offense, he’s just not a good defender at this point in his career, and he’s particularly bad at guarding the post. This means that his matchup against the Grizzlies and Zach Randolph could be a rough one. Randolph has been matched up against Griffin twice since returning from a knee injury, and it has been a tale of two players. The first time, in late March, Randolph was extremely aggressive. He sealed strong, got excellent low-post position, and attacked the rim. For all of Griffin’s physical strength, he hasn’t learned to use his body on defense, and players who go straight at him tend to have success.” Nuff said.

Memphis in Six

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