|I love Leonard 's game, but he lacks the size on KD|
Furthermore, this series features two premiere point guards in Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker, but one has to wonder just how much time they will guard each other. With Danny Green and Thabo Sefolosha both starting at shooting guard as defensive specialists, I would guess that there will be a good amount of cross-matchups. This is what occurred in the Clippers series, with Green spending much of his time checking Chris Paul, and although Parker would certainly make Westbrook work for his offense, he can by no means shut him down. On the other hand, I hope that coach Brooks will try to manage Sefolosha's minutes carefully so that he will be able to guard Manu Ginobli on the second unit so that James Harden will be saved from the challenge of defending his prototype off the bench. This would make sense because although Sefolosha's length could cause difficulties, it may be relegated since Parker spends so much time pounding his defenders into pick and rolls.
This brings me to my second key factor: how the Thunder handle the Spurs' pick and roll. Parker absolutely abused Westbrook in this way during the regular season because despite all of Westbrook's defensive potential, he and the rest of the defense needs to be in sync with its strategy. Westbrook has all the tools to be a great defender with his length and athleticism and was outstanding in the Dallas series with his ball denial on Jason Terry, but he often lacks focus and is out of position, especially in the pick an roll. This can be said for a lot of members on this young Thunder squad so they need to make sure to have their defensive rotations in line against this excellent passing team. Having these extra days off between series could turn out to be crucial in the team's preparation.
|Westbrook has to be careful not to get out of position in the pick and roll.|
The trade idea that you will hear thrown out a lot is an exchange of centers Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard. It appears that the Lakers will only pick up the $16 million team option on Bynum and not explore an extension, and although the young behemoth had an excellent year, I don't think that is enough for the best center on the planet. The Magic have not yet hired a new GM or coach, but I believe that they are ready to trade Howard before he leaves as a free agent in the summer of 2013 in order to acquire as many assets as they can while simultaneously ridding their roster of the bad contracts it is filled with. Thus, the newest prospective deal that occurred to me was a 3-way trade involving the Lakers, Hawks, and Magic.
My thinking is that the Hawks would be willing to send out Smith and Williams (combined $21.5 million this coming year) with a first round pick in order to save a bit of money and to pair Al Horford with an incredible big man partner in Gasol ($19 million). The Magic would be hard pressed to find a better deal than to shed Howard ($19.5 million), Hedo Turkoglu ($11.8 million this year, $6 million guaranteed in 2013), and Chris Duhon ($3.25 million this year, $1.5 million guaranteed in 2013) for Bynum ($16 million) and Atlanta's first round pick. The Lakers would have to trade their twin towers of Gasol and Bynum (combined $35 million) and use the the trade exception from the Lamar Odom trade to absorb Williams' $8.3 million in order to receive Howard, Smith, Turkoglu, and Duhon (combined $47.7 million this coming year). This is obviously a huge salary commitment by the Lakers that may result in Metta World Peace or Steve Blake becoming an amnesty clause casualty, but it would dynamically transform the makeup of the team with more athleticism, shooting, and overall team speed.
As an aside, it is unfortunate that Atlanta does not end up with either of Smith or Howard, but it just does not appear that either of them wants to commit their future to their hometown.