First off, we’d like to congratulate Marbury3orBust and Ebbs for making it this far. Both GM’s did an excellent job. First:
Three facts we want you to know:
1. Isaiah Thomas’s 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 Monica’s superior balance-
We feel we’ve developed a starting 5 that’s perfectly suited to play off each individual’s 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 Thomas’s ability to stretch the floor allows us for Gordon and Dirk to really thrive together in PnR situations. Not only that, but IT’s 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. It’s another facet that the Winterfell 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 Noah’s ability to rebound at a high rate (18 TRB %) and be a quality defensive anchor.
PG Matchup: Isaiah Thomas / Jerryd Bayless vs Jameer Nelson / Norris Cole
It’s no secret that Jameer Nelson has fallen off a notch. He’s no longer an efficient 14+ PPG scorer and he’s just not a good defender. According to synergy, he was 404th in the league last year in overall defense. He gave up 1.09 PPP on spot ups (329th in the NBA), 0.91 PPP on pick and rolls (185th in the league). Even on offense, Nelson averaged only 12 PPG on mediocre efficiency. Isaiah Thomas on the other hand was incredibly efficient for the entire year posting a .57 TS%, and a 52% eFG%. Thomas was ranked as the 5th best pick and roll ball handler according to synergy, averaging 1.03 PPP (49% score rate) on such plays. Keep in mind that he did this all with the likes of Cousins, Thompson, Hickson, etc. in Sacrament. Now, he has Dirk Nowitzki and Joakim Noah to run the pick and roll with. Thomas should be able to exploit Nelson on pick and roll plays, as well as iso plays (0.92 PPP and 24th in the league), and spot ups (123rd in the league, 0.99 PPP and 38% 3P %). On defense, Thomas’s size advantage will not be an issue. He was a great defender last year, limiting the opposition to 0.83 Points per Possession. He is a very good defender of the isolation and pick and roll, meaning he should be able to limit Nelson. In addition, Isaiah’s team was a whopping 7.3 points better when he was on the field than when he was off the field. Off the bench, we can bring in Jerryd Bayless who had a great year. He can shoot from deep and run the offense for 15-20 minutes to give Isaiah a rest. He sported a 56% TS%, while shooting 42% from deep and scoring 11.4 PPG. Cole is an energetic young player, but he proved to be very inconsistent throughout the year.
Advantage: Santa Monica
SG Matchup: Eric Gordon / Jordan Hamilton vs. James Harden / Raja Bell
On the surface, this seems like an advantage for Winterfell, but it is closer than it seems. Gordon has shown to have the ability to score 19+ PPG consistently, which explains him being rewarded with a maximum contract this past offseason. He is a good outside shooter (career 37% 3P %), an improved distributer (4.2 APG in 2010-2011), and an all-around versatile scorer. Harden is as inefficient as they come on offense, but he doesn’t have great defensive prowess. Harden struggles mightily on isolation plays and spot up plays, allowing 0.97 PPP (291st in the league) and 0.95 PPP (206th in the league, 37.5% from 3) respectively. Gordon is a great isolation player and will also be getting open spot up looks, sharing the ball-handling duties with the versatile Isaiah Thomas. On defense, we will be putting Tayshaun Prince on James Harden. Prince is very lengthy and has the ability to bother Harden. One of the things that makes Harden such a tough player to guard is his ability to run the pick and roll. To counter that, Prince is among the best in guarding the pick and roll, allowing only 0.6 PPP, good for 14th in the league. Prince also allows only 0.9 PPP on spot ups, another important facet of Harden’s game. Harden won’t be shut down, but he will definitely be bothered by Prince.
SF Matchup: Tayshaun Prince / Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Stephen Jackson / Ronnie Brewer
To be frank, Stephen Jackson isn’t a starting caliber player anymore. He was flat out horrendous all year. Don’t let one good series versus the Thunder fool you. He sported an atrocious 48.5% TS% this year and had negative offensive win shares this year. His numbers in the postseason are also misleading. Jackson only played 14.5 MPG vs the Clippers, shooting 33% from deep and from the field. We believe in Gordon to stick with Jackson who is primarily a spot up shooter at this point in his career. Tayshaun can still add 10-14 PPG, as a spot up shooter and slasher. Off the bench, we have the option to put Mbah a Moute in, who is known for his superb defense and hustle play. He is a great rebounder for his position and can guard Harden or Jackson shall any of the two have big games.
Advantage: Santa Monica
PF Matchup: Dirk Nowitzki / Jared Jeffries vs. Kris Humphries / Tyler Hansbrough
This is just a clear, humungous advantage for Santa Monica and it is a series changer. Kris Humphries is not a very good defender, and Dirk is simply one of the best offensive players in the game. Dirk is still only one year removed from an epic finals run, leading his team pas the Miami Heat. The one huge difference between this season and last season for the Mavericks was having a defensive anchor down low to play next to Dirk, and we have given him a top center who can basically do it all. Dirk will have little to worry about on defense, as Humphries is not a very talented player downlow and Dirk is an average to above average defender, as ebbs can attest to . If Winterfell tries to put Bosh on Dirk, don’t expect Dirk to be slowed down. Dirk had his dominating performance in the finals against Chris Bosh and I see no reason why it would be any different this time. Dirk is still a very efficient and versatile scorer, although he got off to a rough start with the shortened season and playing overseas. He sported a 56% TS% and had a superb first round, scoring 27 PPG while getting to the line 10.5 times with a 56% TS%. He did this versus a great defender in Serge Ibaka, so I highly doubt that Humphries or Bosh will be able to limit Dirk here. Off the bench, Jeffries and Psycho T bring similar things off the bench. Jeffries is a veteran who does the little things to help teams win, like take charges (amongst the best) and fight for loose balls.
Huge Advantage: Santa Monica
C Matchup: Joakim Noah / Aaron Gray vs. Chris Bosh / Brendan Haywood
Joakim is a jack of all trades guy. 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 down low on defense (1.4 BPG). We love his matchup versus Bosh, because Bosh’s advantage playing at center is neutralized. Bosh doesn’t have a huge advantage being the more mobile player and we can bank on Noah giving Bosh a hard time on offense. 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). Bosh is an improved defender, but he will have his hands full with Noah and may even get himself in foul trouble. Shall Winterfell put Humphries on Noah; Noah has a clear advantage on offense, being that Humphries is a mediocre defender. Rebounding wise, Noah can keep up with Humphries and is a better rebounder than Bosh. Dirk is also a solid defender at PF and Prince and Thomas are good rebounders at their positions. Because we sport such a quick and mobile set of bigs, Haywood would be useless in this matchup, as his big body is best utilized for guys like Bynum and Dwight. We like Gray backing up the center spot for us as he provides good rebounding and defense for 13-18 minutes.
In a close matchup like this, you have to look at who has the better closer, balance, and team defense. Winterfell has okay defenders at their individual positions but no defensive anchor. Bosh at center works for the Heat because they have great defenders at SF, PG, and SG in James, Chalmers, and Wade. Humphries, Harden, Jackson, and Nelson are hardly the defenders that Bosh has in Miami. We will have Dirk, Thomas, and Gordon driving down the lane unimpeded with Dirk on the perimeter. Either Humphries is their anchor or they have Humphries guard Dirk. It’s pick your poison. Our ability to score efficiently and at a high rate along with our above average team defense AND Home court advantage gives us the edge. Santa Monica wins this series in 6 games.