Friday, February 8, 2008

Memphis at New Orleans -2.10.08

Memphis comes to New Orleans desperate for a win, any win, but it will be difficult against the Hornets, one of the best teams in the league this season. Memphis has struggled to find an identity after trading their biggest name, Pau Gasol, for cap space and future draft picks essentially. The most encouraging player from the trade, Javaris Crittenton, may be forced to play out of position if he wants to get any playing time this season. Kwame Brown adds size and defense to the interior but has been mostly a disappointment since being the #1 pick in the draft. This is most likely the last chance Kwame will get to impress anyone enough to sign him for more than the MLE so motivation should be on his side as well. Rudy Gay and Mike Miller are still the leaders of the team but will struggle to find open looks without an interior scoring threat.

New Orleans had been one of the top teams in the Southwest Division all season. Led by MVP candidate Chris Paul and balanced with a strong rotation including Peja Stojakovic, David West and Tyson Chandler, The Hornets have resurrected the franchise that only three seasons ago won a grand total of 18 games after trading their biggest name, Baron Davis. That trade brought back two old bad players in Dale Davis and Speedy Claxton and no draft picks. The Hornets are the poster children for the idea that by making smart draft picks and good free agent signings a quick turnaround is possible. New Orleans has improved thanks to improved health as much as anything. Last year New Orleans struggled with injuries to Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic to just miss the playoffs. This season New Orleans is 3-0 against Memphis including two overtime games.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Chris Paul
Mike didn't start against Dallas but he was clearly the more polished player and will most likely start against the Hornets. Welcome to the NBA rookie, go guard MVP candidate Chris Paul. Paul has been outstanding this season and while LeBron is the front-runner, CP3 isn't far behind. Conley is a great looking rookie but he has only played 20 games this season and 2 years ago was playing high school ball. He has a bright future but this isn't the future.
Advantage: New Orleans

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller vs Morris Peterson

Miller started at SF against Dallas but MoPete can just shoot over Navarro while being a good enough defender to prevent JCN from getting any looks. Miller on the other hand is tall enough to contain MoPete and can cause him problems when the Grizz have the ball. Miller is good for a lot of points in spurts as long as they aren't crucial points in the game. He should be able to do some damage against MoPete.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Peja Stojakovic

Peja has a history against Memphis that isn't very good. If there is a better pure shooter in the NBA than Mike Miller than Peja is on that short list. At 6-10 he is a matchup nightmare on the perimeter where his deadly accuracy and fast release allow him to score in bunches. Rudy Gay is able to hit some great shots but struggles against better defenders off the dribble. Lucky for Rudy that Peja isn't one of those defenders. Rudy will need to force Peja to work on defense so he can't focus on offense. Rudy has also been doing a great job on the boards lately and will need to continue to do so.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forward: Hakim Warrick vs David West

Hakim has not played well enough to earn the spot but then again what interior player has off the bench? West is a monster when his game is not on. Give him some quick easy baskets and he will likely get on a roll. Hakim had shown an instant offense reputation off the bench but Memphis can't wait that long to get a scorer on the court. As a starter Hakim hasn't been nearly as effective. Memphis needs someone who can score around the hoop and Hak is drifting further and further from the basket too often.
Advantage: New Orleans

Center: Darko Milicic vs Tyson Chandler

TYson Chandler didn't play Thursday against the Suns but is expected back for this game, Why are they rushing him? Darko had his string of double-doubles end in Dallas but is capable of starting another run as soon as the ball is thrown up. Darko still relies on one basic move but teams struggle to stop a 7-2 man throwing up hook shots. Once he refinds his range he could be deadly effective underneath. Darko can't fall too in love with his shot however or Tyson Chandler will be sprinting past him to get easy baskets. Darko needs to rebound on the defensive end and rush to get on defense on our misses. If healthy Tyson Chanler is hand full on the backboard and has range out to at least 12 inches from the rim. The problem is nothis range since he is such an effective offensive rebounder.
Advantage: New Orleans

Bench: Memphis vs New Orleans

No contest here. Moving ice cold Juan Carlos Navarro to the bench won't help him find his shot. Crittenton is exciting but out of control. Hopefully that has more to do with his lack of knowledge of the system and not a character trait. Kwame Brown makes Darko look good at the free throw line. Jason Collins at least has shown the willingness to guard the lane with his body. Lowry will have to force the pace to be effective. Memphis' gamble of going big early means they have no backup SF. The Hornets have been getting freat production from their bench. Janerro Pargo is on a roll. Former Grizz Bobby Jackson will drain anything if left alone. Even Julian Wright has been getting some court time but it is still the starters that drive this team.
Advantage: New Orleans

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