Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Memphis at Philadelphia - 2.13.08

Memphis is probably the most relieved team to see the All-Star break arrive. Riding a 6 losing streak prior to Tuesday night's win against Sacramento, things are dark in Memphis right now but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Cap space, young talent and competent leadership will eventually produce the results Memphis fans have desired. Rudy Gay is a clutch scorer who should emerge into the national spotlight by next season if not this season after the Rookie Spectacular and Slam Dunk Contest. Mike Conley has great composure and only needs to develop an outside shot to become a deadly point guard. Darko Milicic is developing consistency after 4 years of misery prior to arriving in Memphis. Those three players are 21, 20, and 22 respectively so the future is bright with 5 additional first round draft picks coming in the next 3 years. Throw in the capability of using the cap money to add to the talent level and Memphis is not as far from playoff potential as their record indicates. Hakim Warrick is a streaky scorer who provides big play potential as well.

Philadelphia is racing into the All-Star break and is probably sad to see it get here. Riding a 4 game winning streak including a dominating win over Dallas on Monday night, Philadelphia is making a strong run up the Eastern Conference standings and is now only half a game out of the playoffs. Led by Andre Miller, Andre Iquodala and Samuel Dalembert, Philly has a strong core of players and some youth developing as well. Led by Louis Williams and Memphis native Thaddeus Young and former Tiger Rodney Carney, Philly seems to be developing a team that will be competitive for years to come. The interesting thing is the 76ers win streak has taken shape after trading Kyle Korver to Utah who has also been red hot. I guess some trades benefit both teams immediately. Philly is tough on defense as well so that will make things even more difficult for the Grizzlies.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Andre Miller
Andre Miller may be the most physically intimidating point guard in the league today. He uses his bulk to post up smaller players, has a great eye for passing and can rebound as well. Just ask Dallas who watched him put up 21 pts, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the last game. If there is a weakness to Miller's game it is his perimeter shooting which is weak at best (14.3% from behind the arc). The key to controlling Miller is to force him into long range shots but that isn't easy to do. Conley will also have to contend with the physical play of Miller and after two stays on the inactive list with sore shoulders that could be a problem for Conley. Mike is faster than Miller but Miller is more comfortable with pace of the NBA game.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Willie Green

This matchup is a rare one for Navarro. He isn't under-sized and he has better range than Willie Green. Unfortunately Green has NBA experience that overcomes these drawbacks. Green, a 5 yr veteran who missed one season recuperating from a devastating knee injury, is a streaky shooter who can explode when on his game but disappear when he is not. Navarro is also a streaky shooter who can explode when he is on his game but lately he has not. JC will need to find the range he lost when his buddy was traded. The Sacramento game was a good start in that direction as Navarro not only filled up the basket but was instrumental in some nice plays where his vision opened up easy looks for other players.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Small Forwards: Mike Miller vs Andre Iquodala

If there is a reason for Memphis to get fired up for this game it has to be the rematch with Iquodala. Not many people will forget him streaking off the court after hitting the game winner over Mike Miller this season. The New AI has become a fan favorite in Philly but is still willing to test the free agent waters this season. Iquodala has increased his scoring every year in the NBA and is on pace to do so again but he only averages 19.2 ppg. Surprisingly low for a team leader in the NBA. Iquodala also doesn't have great touch on his long range shots hitting only 30.6% of his three point attempts. What AI does have is a clutch sense of confidence. Mike Miller is sorely lacking in that regard. Miller is one of the best shooters in the league but in crunch time turns to jelly.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Power Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Thaddeus Young

Thaddeus Young was supposed to be too weak to play PF in the NBA. Well as a rookie starter he is averaging 11 ppg and over 6 rebounds. His 8 pt, 8 rebound game against Dirk was particularly impressive when considering Dirk had a terrible offensive game. Rudy Gay has snapped out of his funk after the Gasol trade to start putting up consistent numbers. He has averaged 22 ppg and 8.6 rpg since Gasol left which is almost identical to the numbers he put up in the last five games with Gasol. Rudy's combination of long range accuracy (38.8%), explosive leaping ability and clutch shooting has made him one of the more talked about sophomore's in the league this year. It won't be easy against Young but the rookie may overlook this game after his performance against Dirk the Jerk.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Samuel Dalembert

Darko Milicic is averaging 5.8 ppg and 6.8 rpg. So why should anyone consider this an improvement? I can answer that. Darko started the season playing strong and then badly sprained his left thumb (dominant hand). Instead of waiting for his thumb to get its lift back, he played through the pain and his numbers suffered for it. Since the thumb started to heal he has gradually started improving. In his last 5 games he is averaging 11 ppg and 10.6 rebounds and is avoiding foul trouble early in games. That is something to get excited about for a 22 yr old player finally getting regular minutes. Samuel Dalembert also was a slow starter in the NBA. His fourth season in the league he averaged 7.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg. Now he is considered one of the better big men in the league and is averaging 11.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 2.4 bpg. Unfortunately Darko still has some developing to reach that kind of production but it is conceivable that Darko can score more and rebound as much as Dalembert in the near future.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Benches: Memphis vs Philadelphia

Philly has more experience in their starting lineup but the benches are both pretty green. Louis Williams is actually exciting to watch play. Erratic and poor shooting overall but damn exciting. Reggie Evans is a powerful rebounder and defender but offers little else. Rodney Carney is still struggling with his shot and will need to improve if he wants to continue to play in the NBA. Memphis' bench should start to settle down and start producing soon. They haven't yet. Hakim Warrick redeemed himself as a starter against Sacramento and is scoring like he did early in the season. Unfortunately he is back to defending like he did early in the season which has forced Memphis into more and more zone defenses. Kyle Lowry can't hit an outside shot and is too focused on the rim once he gets into the paint. He needs to learn how to do more. Jason Colllins and Kwame Brown both need to show something more than we have seen although the Ben Wallace hairdo was interesting last night. If he could just become the Ben Wallace defender as well Memphis may have found something.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Opposing Viewpoints:
Sixers 4

BallHype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...


Jon said...

Nice job. Looking forward to a great game.

the serbian swatter said...

I couldn't agree more with your discussion of Darko's progress.

I'm sure excited.

Anonymous said...

let's make it 2 in a row!

Anonymous said...

"Cap space, young talent and competent leadership will eventually produce the results Memphis fans have desired."


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