First off, weíd like to congratulate SI and Hawkeye for making the playoffs. Both Gmís did an excellent job for their first game back after a few years of not playing. We wish them the best of luck.
Three facts we want you to know:
1. Isaiah Thomasís numbers as a starter-
14.2 points, 5.2 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal on 47% FG, 40% 3pt, 83% FT.
2. Tayshaun Prince is an above average defender:
He held opponents to a .81 PPP overall (ranked 128) on 35% FG. Also, his opponent PER was 11.4 last season which is well above average with his sample size of defensive opportunities.
3. Santa Monicaís superior balance-
We feel weíve developed a starting 5 thatís perfectly suited to play off each individualís strength. Eric Gordon thrives in the PnR and being a primary ball-handler as shown by his 1.21 PPP in PnR situations. With this in mind, we wanted a PG who could still create for others, but also thrive in off-the-ball situations to let Gordon maximize his talents. Isaiah Thomasís ability to stretch the floor allows us for Gordon and Dirk to really thrive together in PnR situations. Not only that, but ITís ability to create for himself as well as thrive in the PnR was absolutely fantastic. He ranked 24th, in ISO situations and 5th in PnR situations last season which gives us a very unique ability to turn to an IT-Dirk PnR game or an Eric Gordon-Dirk PnR game. Itís another facet that the Manhattan defense will have to account for.
The real strength of Santa Monica is our bigs duo, Dirk Nowitzki, and Joakim Noah. We confidently feel this is the strongest bigs duo in the redraft and their talents complement each other absolutely perfectly. Dirk will have the freedom of totally being focused on the offensive end with Noahís ability to rebound at a high rate (18 TRB%) and be a quality defensive anchor. The very young and green bigs of Manhattan will have a difficult time in this series against two playoff tested veterans who are both coming off huge seasons.
PG Matchup: Isaiah Thomas | Jerryd Bayless VS Ricky Rubio | Derek Fisher
If you believe ESPN hype, then Rubio should win this match-up in a landslide. However, the stats say otherwise despite how much ESPN coverage Rubio got. Rubio, outside of his passing ability, was a flat out horrendous offensive player. His efficiency numbers were atrocious, (.47 TS%, 39 eFG%, 0.75 overall PPP on offense, ranked 391). Isaiah Thomas on the other hand was incredibly efficient for the entire year posint a .57 TS%, .52eFG% and a 0.98 PPP overall on offense, ranked 68th. Another important factor to consider is how Rubio operates with Kobe. Rubioís elite ability to create for others is severely lessened playing with the most ball-dominant guard in the game. While we plan to operate in a similar manner with IT and Gordon, IT has shown the ability to remain incredibly effective in an off-the ball role.
Itís also important to note that Isaiah Thomas excelled defending ISO and PnR Ball Handler situations last season, which accounted for 50% of Rubioís offensive plays last season. Isaiah should have an advantage in this match-up with his superior play last season as well as Rubio's 1 elite talent being stiffened playing with Kobe. Off the bench, we have the option of bringing in PG Jerryd Bayless, who quiety had a great year last year. Bayless can score and easily hold down the fort when Thomas is out. Fisher on the other hand, is extremely old and provides little to nothing on defense and only shooting on offense. The advantage off the bench combined with the close matchup of the starters makes this one an advantage for us.
SG Matchup: Eric Gordon | Jordan Hamilton VS Kobe Bryant | Reggie Williams
Donít let the big names fool you, this is closer than it seems. Simply put, Kobe Bryant is not what he used to be. This year, he turned into a huge chucker, with his poor 52.7% TS%. Kobe needs the ball in his hands at all times and just isnít a good team player anymore, as evidenced by their disappointment of a season. Kobe put up his lowest WS total since 1998 and settles for 5 threes a game and makes them at a terrible 30% clip. Gordon, although coming off an injury, is a great sidekick to Dirk. He can slash, run the pick and roll with Dirk (1.21 PPP on Pick and Rolls), and he can spot up (career 37% 3PT%). Gordon will get his points in this matchup, as Kobeís defense is no longer elite and Gordon can score in a variety of ways. Defensively, weíll be putting Prince on Kobe and Gordon on Hill. Prince has the ability to give Bryant a rough time with his length and above average defense. Though some believe heís digressed, Prince put up good synergy numbers on defense once again and we trust his veteran self to play Kobe tough and smart. Off the bench, we both have two relatively inexperienced but talented 2-guards, so the bench matchup would be fairly even.
SF Matchup: Tayshaun Prince | Luc Richard Mbah A Moute VS Grant Hill | Wilson Chandler
Santa Monica has the advantage here. Tayshaun can still hit the three at a solid rate and heís a veteran player that knows what it takes to win. Hill is also a veteran, but his production has gone down a bit compared to last year. Hill shot an atrocious 26% from deep which adds to the awful floor spacing of Manhattan (Rubio 34%, Kobe 30%, Hill 26%). We have confidence that Gordon can stay on Hill, as Hill isnít quick and isnít a huge threat on offense. We also can bring Luc Richard Mbah a Moute off the bench to guard either Kobe or Hill. Luc provides fantastic defense and energy off the bench, and his length and quickness can give Kobe a rough time as well. Chandler on the other hand looked awful after he came back to the states, with a 44.5% TS% and -.3 WS.
Advantage: Santa Monica
PF Matchup: Dirk Nowitzki | Jared Jeffries VS Anthony Davis | Lamar Odom
This is the difference maker of the series. Dirk Nowitzki is still only one year removed from putting together a ridiculous playoff run to lead his team to the championship. He can score in literally any way possible, whether it be spotting up, posting up, taking someone off the dribble, or running the pick and roll. Synergy has Dirk averaging 0.97 PPP on isos (13th in the NBA), 0.93 PPP on Post ups (33rd in the NBA), 0.9 PPP on Pick and Rolls (84th in the NBA), 1.01 PPP on spot ups (110th in the NBA) and 1.12 PPP off screens (7th in the NBA). Dirk can still score from anywhere on the court and him going up against an inexperienced player like Davis is a recipe for disaster for Manhattan. Dirkís one of the most nifty and savvy offensive players out there, and though Anthony Davis has raw skills, we have absolutely no idea how his play will translate to the NBA. Thereís no Dirk Nowitzki in college that heís ever faced. Dirk has a huge advantage in this series over Davis. On defense, Dirk wonít have much to worry about, as Davis is again very raw and not very talented down low. Off the bench, we can bring in Jared Jeffries, who is known to be a great hustle player that plays strong defense, and does the little things to help his teams win.
Huge Advantage: Santa Monica
C Matchup: Joakim Noah | Aaron Gray vs. Nikola Pekovic | Jermaine OíNeal
This is a close matchup, but the more experienced center has the advantage here. Noah is a great player for any team to have on both ends, as Bulls fans know. He can set great picks, handle the ball at the free throw line and make good passes (2.5 APG), rebound with the best of them (18.0 TRB%), and be a great anchor downlow on defense (1.4 BPG). Pekovic had an impressive year this year on a rough Minnesota team, but he no longer has the luxury of playing with a top 2 PF and great floor spacer in Kevin Love. In addition, Pekovic has a very poor RAPM (Regularized Adjusted +/-) of -1.6 while Noah sports a +1.0 RAPM meaning that Noah made a larger impact on the court than Pekovic did. In addition, Noah can hit the mid range shot and is a threat to score on offense (56.1 TS%, ranked 80th in the Pick and Roll, 84th in the post up, 68th cutting, and 33rd in transition). The guy is a jack of all trades center that is a perfect fit with Dirk. As for the bench, this is another advantage for Santa Monica as Jermaine OíNeal provides little to nothing in any aspect of the game at this point while Gray started for the Raptors this year, and provides good defense and rebounding.
Advantage: Santa Monica
Manhattan does not have enough to overcome a superior Santa Monica ball-club. Between 2 extremely young and inexperienced bigs in Anthony Davis, and Nikola Pekovic, a highly questionable back-court fit of Rubio and Kobe, and a lesser amount of talent puts them too far behind to win this series. Santa Monica wins this series on having 2 top tier offensive options (Dirk, Gordon), defensive role players who donít need shots on offense, (Prince, Noah) and a PG with the ability to be a highly capable #3 option and spread the floor at an elite level. Santa Monica takes this in 5 or 6 games.