Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Memphis at Chicago - 3.4.08

Memphis hasn't enjoyed their last few visits to Chicago. Of course Memphis hasn't enjoyed much of anything lately having lost 8 games in a row and not really being competitive in most of those games. Starting a rookie backcourt of Mike Conley and Juan Carlos Navarro bodes well for the future but Navarro is 27 yrs old and while he should become more consistent it is doubtful his game will develop that much. Rudy Gay is struggling in the role of team leader but Hakim Warrick is improving his play. The dark cloud right now is over Darko Milicic who needs to start showing consistency in his 5th season in the league.

Chicago lost a tough game at Cleveland on Sunday. The rebuilt squad continues to bring effort to the floor despite the front office's apparent tossing in of the towel this season. Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden bring a veteran presence to what is still a very young team. Joakim Noah is the main beneficiary of the trade as he assumes the starting center role and is doing well so far in that capacity bringing energy and effort to the court. Kirk Hinrich has disappointed this season. Ben Gordon is probably playing his last season in Chicago and that reality may be affecting his play.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Kirk Hinrich
Kirk Hinrich struggled early in the season but has adjusted nicely to a new running mate in Larry Hughes. Over the last 5 games Hinrich has found his scoring touch by not having to take so many shots. Being the playmaker better suits Hinrich's game and Larry Hughes's presence allows Hinrich to be that. Mike Conley doesn't appear to be hitting the rookie wall yet but only playing 33 games so far could have something to do with that. His consistency of performance has been shocking for a rookie. He's averaging 9.3 ppg and 4.6 apg over the season, 10.2 ppg and 4.3 apg over the last 10 games and 10.2 ppg and 4.6 apg over the last 5 games. Most rookies have more variability in their games. This matchup favors Hinrich on experience but Conley on speed. Old age over youth every time but it is closer than most people would think.
Advantage: Chicago

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Larry Hughes

Memphis is targeting this game for Miller's return and he will be needed against the tall and aggresive Hughes. Hughes is aggressive offensively and defensively which translates into a lot of turnovers on both sides of the ball. When he is on his game he can shoot very well but shooting 37.7% from the field and 34.1% from the arc means he thinks he is hot more often than he really is. He averages over 2 turnovers a game as well but offsets that with 1.5 steaps a game. Navarro has finally left the rookie wall behind him and is getting comfortable in the starting SG role for the Grizzlies. Despite an ice cold February where Navarro shot just 36% for the month from the floor he has been relatively accurate in his last 5 games hitting 42% of his FG attempts and 40.7% from behind the arc. His defense has improved as well but he will need to be careful with the ball against Hughes. Navarro could actually win this matchup if the refs call it fair but Navarro hasn't been on friendly terms with the refs all season.
Advantage: Chicago

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Luol Deng

The only real reason to watch this game is the battle between Rudy Gay and Luol Deng. Deng entered the season being listed among the top free agents in this summers class but has disappointed this season, along with the entire Bulls team. His scoring is down nearly 2 pts a game, his percentage is off from 52% to 47% and his rebounds are down as well. Rudy Gay on the other hand has been soaring up the charts this season despite the Grizzlies poor play. He looks to become the 3rd player in franchise history to average over 20 ppg over the entire season (something Deng has never done) and all of his numbers are above last season's marks.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Drew Gooden

An interesting matchup here as Drew Gooden was shipped out of Memphis because he couldn't unseat Gasol while Warrick was kept behind Gasol and now has replaced him. Warrick has responded well as a starter after not getting into the lineup much early in the season. As a starter Hakim is averaging 17 ppg and 9 boards while shooting 55% from the field. Gooden is on his 4th team in 6 seasons. He consistently averages around 12 ppg and 8 rpg but is rumored to be a lockerroom cancer. He has the experience and agility to give Warrick fits however and it will be interesting to see if Warrick can keep Gooden off the glass. If he can't this could get ugly.
Advantage: Chicago

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Joakim Noah

Darko vs Noah may one day be an interesting battle of big men. Not today however. Darko is 22 and Noah is 23 (yes Noah is older than darko) so they are basically the same age. Both are limited offensively but Darko has the reputation of being able to develop while Noah will always be at best a scorer on breaks and offensive rebounds. He has no range and his unorthodox shot probably precludes him from becoming a good shooter. Noah does have a spring in his step absent from Darko's game right now. He runs the court better than nearly any big man not named Amare right now and he is very active on the defensive end of the court. Once refs start giving his flop respect he will be difficult to deal with. The key is Darko is strong enough to overpower Noah right now and the refs don't respect Joakim's flop. Darko should win the battle as long as he keeps finishing at the rim and not settling for hooks and jump shots.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Chicago

Ince again the difference comes down to the benches. Chicago can roll out Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni and Tyrus Thomas. Memphis may have Mike Miller back so that could help. Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittenton would be interesting to see play more together as they bring a level of excitement not seen off Memphis's bench since Bonzi played here. The problem is matching up with Chicago's bigs. Tyrus Thomas and Aaron Gray are simply better than Collins and Kwame.
Advantage: Chicago

Enemy Blogs:
Blog a Bull
Bull Riding
Hoopsworld

BallHype: hype it up!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why not use the cap space available to sign Deng and then have Deng and Gay rotate defending at the 4

ChipC3 said...

That is always a possibility. Just as signing Josh Smith or Michael Pietrus would be. The problem is that Deng is restricted I believe as is Smith. If Memphis doesn't overpay for him then Chicago simply matches the offer.

AussieGfan said...

I watched this game on TV and Memphis were awful :(