First off, we would like to congratulate Corey and Superdude for making it to the Finals. They built a phenomenal team. Good luck to you guys! However, we feel that we match up very nicely with Hartford.
Four Facts We Want You To Know
1. Isaiah Thomas was a fantastic starting point guard last year when given the chance. He averaged 14.2 points, 5.2 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal on 47% FG, 40% 3pt, 83% FT. His synergy numbers on both ends were also top notch and Sacramento fans can attest to the fact that this kid is the real deal.
2. Tayshaun Prince is still an above average defender. He held opponents to a .81 PPP overall (ranked 128) on 35% FG. His opponent PER was 11.4 last season which is well above average with his sample size of defensive opportunities.
3. Carlos Boozer has been extremely mediocre in the playoffs the past two years. In 2010-2011, he averaged 12.6 PPG on 31.7 MPG, an atrocious 49.4% TS%, 43.3% eFG%, and provided non-existent defense per usual. This was in a 16 game run so it was no small sample size. In 2012 Boozer averaged 13.5 PPG with an even more atrocious 43.5% TS%, 42.2% eFG%, and again poor defense. Boozer was often benched late in the game for Taj Gibson! Hartford is going to have some major issues if they are relying on this guy late in the playoffs because he disappears and is just a terrible defender.
4. Santa Monica is the most balanced team in the game. 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 Hartford 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. Onto the head to head matchups:
PG Matchup: Isaiah Thomas | Jerryd Bayless vs. Kyle Lowry | Brandon Knight
On the surface this is a clear win for Hartford. However, Thomas as a starter was a flat out stud. His stats are actually very similar to those of Lowry. Lowry has averaged 13.5 PPG and 14.3 PPG the last two years with a little over six and a half assists per game with around a 55.4% TS%. Now Lowry is known to be a fantastic defender, but most advanced statistics say otherwise. His synergy numbers have him ranked as the 280th best defender in terms of total PPP, and he allows opposing point guards a PER of 15.8. We actually like this matchup a lot because Lowry allowed opponents to shoot 67-145 (46.2%) off of spot-ups. Lucky for us, Thomas is a great shooter (38% from 3, 0.99 PP on spot-ups-123rd in the NBA). Thomas will be able to get his on offense, by running the pick and roll (5th in the league) with Dirk and Noah and playing off Dirk and EG spotting up from deep. Defensively, Thomas doesnít let his lack of size prevent him from limiting his opponents. Heís a very good isolation defender and defends the pick and roll very well as well, which are two of Lowryís favorite methods of scoring on offense. Lowry wonít be posting up Thomas or anything as Lowry has no post game and even if he tries, Thomas actually defends post ups well. Off the bench, we both have young guards who provide good offense, and can run the offense for some time.
Slight Advantage: Hartford
SG Matchup: Eric Gordon | Jerryd Bayless vs. Iman Shumpert | Shannon Brown
Now before people bring up Gordonís injury history, know that Shumpert is coming off an ACL tear and will not be back until mid to late season. We have no idea how he will respond to something as major as ACL surgery. Gordon on the other hand was offered a max by Phoenix and matched by the Hornets, which clearly suggests that they think heíll be in form this year and the next few years. Gordon is still a top scorer at SG and has a huge advantage here. He can score from anywhere and is an efficient offensive player (career 57.5% TS%). Not only is Gordon a great scorer, but he is also a very good ball-handler and passer. Two guys in the backcourt who can run the pick and roll with two very competent bigs are going to be virtually impossible for Hartford to guard. Shump is known to be a great defender, but he is still raw. He sometimes finds himself out of a play after taking unnecessary risks and he can be over-zealous at times. Offensively, Shumpert is just not good yet. He sports a horrific 48.4 TS% and takes 2.7 3ís per game while making them at a horrific 30.4% rate. Gordon will be able to save his energy for the offensive end. Off the bench, we will play Bayless at the 2 as he has great shooting ability and we donít lose anything on defense as Brown is an undersized 2 guard and Shumpert is basically a negative on offense.
Advantage: Santa Monica
SF Matchup: Tayshaun Prince | Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Jared Dudley | Vince Carter
This is a matchup of role players. Prince is a savvy veteran who provides very good defense and solid 10-12 points per game. He knows what it takes to win a chip and now that he is actually motivated and not on a bottom-feeder team in Detroit, his defense and efficiency will go up a bit. Dudley is a nice scorer on the wing, but heís a beneficiary of Steve Nash. Kyle Lowry is a nice distributor and all, but he is not the set-up man that Steve Nash is, so donít expect Dudley to see as many open looks. Dudleyís points come off of Spot ups, cuts, and screens for the most part and Prince is very good at defending spot ups and screens (0.9 PPP on spotups and 0.79 PPP on screens). Not only is Prince able to hold him in check, but also Dudley wonít be getting as many open looks on this team. He canít create his own shot whatsoever so the playmaking on the perimeter for Hartford will be sparse. Off the bench, we have the clear advantage as Luc is a versatile player who provides great defense , rebounding and hustle. Carter on the other hand canít even find a team and is just an old, fat, washed up player. He provides little to nothing at this point in his career.
Advantage: Santa Monica
PF Matchup: Dirk Nowitzki | Jared Jeffries vs. Carlos Boozer | Drew Gooden
This is the finals difference maker. You have a guy who is an awful defender and gets much worse in the playoffs against arguably the best PF in the league who is one year removed from leading his team to an NBA championship versus the Heat. Not only does Boozer have no chance of stopping him, but Hartford canít even bring someone off the bench to limit Dirk. Boozer has been so bad in the playoffs that he generated -0.1 OWS in the last two years. His total win shares will look somewhat okay, because heís on the best defensive team in the league, but his OWS just shows how awful he is in the playoffs. Because if Boozer isnít producing on offense, then what the hell is he good for? The guy is a horrific defender and isnít going to be altering any shots in the paint. As for Dirk, people think he had a down year. However, because of the shortened season and him playing overseas, he had a very slow start to the season. After the allstar break, Dirk went back to being Dirk. He averaged 23.6 PPG. 6.7 Rbs, and 2.1 Asts on 46% from the field. However, he still managed to be uber efficient, shooting 43.4% from 3 and getting to the line over 6 times a game and hitting his FTís at a 91.1% clip. However, this play didnít stop in the regular season. In the playoffs, against a great defender in Serge Ibaka, Dirk averaged 26.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.8 APG all while getting to the line an absurd 10.5 times per game and sporting a 56% TS%. If Dirk did this on Serge, then what the hell are Boozer and Gooden going to do against him? Off the bench, Jeffries can fill in at SF-C and defend any position on the court. He is a good rebounder, hustle player, and is fantastic at taking charges.
HUGE Advantage: Santa Monica
C Matchup: Joakim Noah | Aaron Gray vs. Andrew Bynum | Shelden Williams
Bynum had a fantastic year in LA but we have no idea how he will respond to being the number one option. Heís a very good post player but he also can be inconsistent at times. We like having Noah to match up with him because Noah is going to frustrate the hell out of Bynum in a seven game series. Bynum has always sported a bit of a temper, and Noah is a guy that does things to frustrate his opponents. Heís extremely aggressive and physical with his counterparts and we think that Noah will do just fine versus Noah. Thatís not to say that Bynum will be shut down, because he wonít be. But Noah is a very good defender and we have yet to see what Bynum can do as a number one option. On offense, Noah wonít be limited by Bynum. Noah is great at setting picks and is actually very versatile on offense. He is one of the best passing big men in the game and can hit the mid-range shot. He 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) and does many things that donít show up on the stat sheet to help his team win. Bynum is a very good post defender, but Noah isnít a post player so Noah will not be limited in this series. Off the bench, Aaron gray provides good rebounding and defense and is a nice big body to put on Bynum if Noah ever finds himself in foul trouble.
All in all, itís clearly a close matchup. However, we match up very well with them. Keep these things in mind:
1. Hartford has only one wing who can create his own shot, and that is Shannon Brown off the bench who is a liability on defense.
2. Noah is a much better answer to Bynum than Boozer is to Dirk.
3. Boozer is horrendous in the playoffs.
4. Dirk showed that heís still a superstar with his play post-all-star break and in the playoffs.
5. Eric Gordon is an ideal second option for this team.
6. Isaiah Thomas performed very well as a starting PG and would thrive with options like Dirk, EG, Noah and Prince to dish to.
7. Anything you can think of, we have it. Post scoring, post defense, a defensive anchor, floor spacing, play-making. We are an extremely balanced team with a player who is one of the most clutch in the league and is a fantastic playoff performer.
8. Who is taking the last shot for Hartford in a close series? Kyle Lowry?
9. Santa Monica has Home Court Advantage
Thank you for reading our lengthy write-up. We truly believe that we are the best team in the game and would defeat Hartford to take the chip.