Congratulations to RocketsRule and tonyd3b54 for making the playoffs. These two seasoned veterans did a solid job assembling a strong playoff roster.
Virginia Beach will rely on Carmelo Anthony to lead them in these playoffs. He is an explosive scorer who loves having the ball in his hand. To be more accurate, Carmelo is involved in isolation or post-up plays 48.4% of the time he has the ball, and 71% of his FGA are jump shots. He will be matched up with none other than Lebron James, who needless to say is one of the best overall defenders in the NBA. In their latest meeting during the NBA playoffs, Carmelo was able to score around 28 PPG, which is great unless it takes you 25 FGA to score them. Lebron held Melo to 41.9 FG% and 22.2 3PT%, while averaging himself 27.8 PPG on 18 FGA and excellent shooting efficiency. We expect no different in this series between the two.
We do expect Virginia Beach to use both Carmelo and Wallace to defend Lebron, as well as some double teaming in order to contain him. It won't work against this squad. Let me address a big misconception about Gerald Wallace before I continue. At one point in his career he was one of the toughest defenders, someone you could rely on to stop your opposition's best player. Unfortunately, that is not the case anymore as Wallace has regressed significantly on the defensive end in recent years. He allows 0.95 points per play (PPP), 398th best overall, with a scoring rate of 40.5%. He is a very lazy defender, in particular on spot-up plays allowing 1.05 PPP, which coincidentally is one of Ryan Anderson's strengths offensively.
Lebron is surrounded with enough shooters to combat any type of double teaming. Now, you may ask yourself what if the shots are not falling? No need to worry, this team possesses a secondary playmaker in George Hill to relieve some of the pressure off Lebron. George Hill is known for his lock down defense, but he is a very underrated Pick and Roll player. Last season Hill ranked 11th best overall in PnR plays, producing 0.98 PPP with a scoring rate of 44.3%. Ryan Anderson is amongst the best Pick and Roll big men in the NBA, making this PnR duo a recipe for success.
Speaking of George Hill, he has a favorable matchup against 39-year old Jason Kidd. Where to begin? Last season was perhaps Kidd's worst statistical year in his long career. He logged 28 MPG and 6 PPG on less than desirable shooting. He has shot 36% from the field in his last two years, but to be fair he has never been an efficient jump shooter. He doesn't have the speed to get past quicker PGs and penetrate the defense anymore, so he is forced to rely on that 36 shooting percentage. How much? How does 95% of his shot attempts are jump shots sound? Not good, unless you are playing against him. He is not the same playmaker he once was, averaging 5.5 APG last year, he certainly is not the same defender either. He will get the occasional steal or two, but he is too old and slow to keep up with the quicker PGs in the NBA. George Hill should have no problem defending his pathetic shooting and creating some offensive opportunities himself.
Defensively Virginia Beach will have to rely on oft-injured Andrew Bogut, who has missed a considerable amount of games in each of his last 4 seasons. He is a very risky player to rely so heavily on because of his history with injuries. Playing Bogut more than 30 minutes per game could end up being catastrophic for Virginia Beach but considering there is no reliable back up at the Center position, they may be forced to take a gamble on his health. Marcus Camby, his counterpart, is still an excellent rebounder and shot blocker and will be playing around 28 MPG. His offensive rebounding will allow the offense to get second chance looks while his shot blocking will generate plenty of fastbreak baskets. We got young legs in Hill, Matthews, Lebron, Anderson, and Hickson to make the most out of these opportunities.
The bench play will be a big factor in deciding the outcome of this series. Lebron has more reliable shooters coming off the bench, but will also be reacquainted with J.J. Hickson. This young, talented big man made a tremendous stride last year after being traded to Portland from Sacramento, where he was playing some of the worst basketball of his career. His decision making and shot selection has improved significantly, posting a PER of 20.2, 56.8 TS% and 15.4 TRB% with the Blazers. Lebron will help him keep than consistency and efficiency in order to make him a reliable 6th man for this squad. Kirk Hinrich is another player coming off the bench who will have an impact in this series. He will be getting most, if not all, of the minutes at the backup 1 and 2. He has been in enough playoff games to lead our second unit towards the right path. His playoff career 40.4 3PT% will be instrumental in getting spacing for Lebron and making quick scoring runs in the second quarter.
To close this out I would like the make note of the following. Lebron is not doing this alone, he is surrounded by talented individuals who will make his job easier. He is playing alongside people who can become shooters or playmakers according to how the game dictates. While Lebron is our team leader and main option offensively, this is ultimately a team sport and the best team should always win.
Thank you for taking your time in reading this.