Ok, who expected the battle between two of the very best Western Centers would come in a Suns-Grizzlies game, raise your hands.
Just me? Great.
Both Marcin Gortat and Marc Gasol have been playing on an extremely high level. Gortat had a hitch, breaking his 9 game double-double streak in the gruesome loss to the Blazers yesterday, but so far he’s been the league’s most efficient player (with some help from Steve Nash, for sure) and one of the very top centers in terms of PER. Gasol, on the other hand, has been a defensive powerhouse so far in Memphis, while also providing some offence from the low post.
Strangely enough these two centers, Gortat, relying on other players (but now without an ability to score for himself when he gets the ball in the low block) and Gasol, a traditional back to the basket big man, represent the very elite of the NBA.
The question is, who will stop whom?
Gortat’s Synergy stats in the Low Post may not be flashy in the low post (0.76 points per play) but on the other hand, a lot of those come from players like Carlos Boozer just shooting rather lucky jumpers over him. When it comes to individual defence, believe me, the guy who went against Dwight Howard in practice every day is going to be pretty good.
Where Gortat has been struggling defensively is the pick and roll. Granted, he didn’t have a lot of opportunities (20) to defend it, but 1.05 PPP is still pretty atrocious. As time passes, and Gortat’s teammates don’t force him to pick both the roll man and the handler up. Yep, this happens.
Now, can Gasol stop Gortat? In 10 pick and rolls this season, Gasol managed to hold his opponents under 30%. But these roll men usually weren’t damn near perfect pick and roll players of Marcin Gortat’s ilk (remember, he executed almost 100 pick and rolls this season, scoring on 65% of the shots he took).
Now that we have the center(s) of attention figured out, let’s switch to the other important topic, namely: Will Grant Hill be able to stop Rudy Gay. Gay is the Grizz’s leading scorer and should try and have his way with the elder statemen of the NBA. Grant however has looked healthier and healthier with each game, which will probably mean an interesting battle of smarts vs athleticism. On both ends.
Finally, the Grizzlies final offensive weapon is Mike Conley who has been a pretty good playmaker for them. He’s pretty quick, too, so… Beware, Nash’s ankles.
And while these offensive weapons are rolled out, the 2 and 4 spots will be filled with quite the opposite breed of players. Ronnie Price and Tony Allen are expected to start for their teams, both obviously there for the defence. And in the frontcourt, alongside the great Western mountains, will be the struggling Markieff Morris and the probably-even-worse Mareese Speights. A matchup worthy of a facepalm.
With the lack of depth at Power Forward for the Grizz, the Suns should seriously consider rolling Hakim Warrick out early. His defence may be beyond pathetic, but so is Speights’ and the other Memphis PF’s offence.
Phoenix’s bench “depth” (depending on their ability to actually hit their shots) might be a key to this game. The Grizz don’t have much of that aside from O.J. Mayo
Give Josh Childress some time. Especially if it means less Bassy Telfair on the floor and more Jared Dudley point-forward plays.