By employing little rats as ball boys, the Pelicans managed to come up with some bulletin board material for this series. It’s not going to matter. They’re going to get swept.
I know it’s fashionable to award the lesser team a game or two in making series prognistications, but I just don’t see it here. The difference in talent between the Warriors and the Pelicans is just too great.
And this Warriors team is unlike almost any other team we’ve ever seen in NBA history, in one important respect: They never take a game off. Literally never.
Led by the indomitable will of Draymond Green and the extraordinary talent of Stephen Curry, the Warriors will sweep the Pelicans out of the playoffs.
Here’s a few more of my reasons why, and one possible way in which Monty Williams could flip the switch:
Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson are back: No, they’re not.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Pelicans are now back at full strength. Nothing could be further from the truth. The bodies of Holiday and Anderson might be on the floor, but their game is still back at the practice facility, rehabbing. Anderson has played 9 games since returning, which have been the epitome of inconsistency. In those 9 games, he was .321 from the floor, .314 from three. Now he gets Draymond Green. Holiday has been back for three games, coming off the bench for limited minutes, with a game off for rest in between. Now he gets Stephen Curry.
Remember what happened when Michael Jordan came back from baseball? It wasn’t pretty.
Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson aren’t Michael Jordan.
The Pelicans are not, nor ever have been, a team: Do you remember when Tyreke Evans was lost and without a position with this team? When the Pellies were playing him at small forward and he didn’t have the ball in his hands, and he was averaging 28 minutes and 14 points and 22% from three? It wasn’t that long ago. Those were his averages last year.
Tyreke Evans needs the ball in his hands to be a player. He’s just about as bad as it gets in a wing when playing off the ball. But what about Jrue Holiday? Do you think he’s ever been comfortable playing off the ball while Tyreke stylizes?
So far, Monty has avoided past problems by bringing Holiday off the bench at backup point guard. That should be just fine for the Warriors, if it continues. Holiday is the Pellies best defender of Curry, and second best player.
The Pellies have been playing without Holiday and Anderson for quite some time. (Has recent acquisition Quincy Pondexter ever played with them?) It is completely unrealistic to expect the Pellies to be able to seamlessly reintegrate them, in the midst of a playoff series against the best team in the league.
Disintegration is far more likely.
No Curry Stopper: Where on the Pelicans roster is the Kawhi Leonard, the Danny Green, the Matt Barnes or Kevin Durant you need to take Stephen Curry out of his game in the playoffs? They don’t have a single long and versatile wing defender.
Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon are good defenders, or should I say, used to be good defenders, before Holiday missed half the season, and knee injuries wore Gordon down. But both of them are “only” 6-4″. I put only in quotes because that’s not bad size in an NBA guard, particularly when guarding point guards, in normal circumstances.
Stephen Curry is not normal circumstances.
You need a defender of extraordinary length to bother Stephen Curry’s three point shot, to make him feel you as he comes off those countless drag screens and high picks. And you need extraordinary length to bother his over-the-top pass when you blitz him. The Pellies simply don’t have it.
Bill Russell v. Bill Russell: It’s not hard to see a little of the greatest player of all time in Anthony Davis. Davis is a long and lanky 6-10″ 220 lbs. Bill Russell was 6-10″ 215. The extraordinary defensive intelligence, the shot-blocking and rebounding ability. Some differences emerge on offense: Davis is a far more skilled shooter, Russell was a far better facilitator.
But the biggest difference between the two players, at least to date, is in winning mentality. That win at all costs, junkyard dog mentality. Maybe this series will bring that out of Davis, but I haven’t really seen that yet in his career. Just mind-bending talent.
Anthony Davis is going to be guarded in this series, at least to start, by Draymond Green. You’d really have to squint hard to see Bill Russell in Draymond Green’s body. But as far as intangibles go… let’s just say I’ve been toying with this comparison in my mind for a while now. Particularly when Draymond plays center. His ability to transform the playing field on the defensive end, to tilt the universe in the Warriors favor, is like few things I’ve ever seen. Particularly in someone 6-5″.
The conventional wisdom is that Draymond can’t guard AD. I disagree somewhat. First of all, let’s start with this: who in the league has been able to guard AD this season? He’s too quick and athletic, and has too much range for most centers and conventional PFs. Too long for the stretch fours. To really give him trouble, you’d need a young Kevin Garnett, maybe a healthy Ibaka.
So when I say Dray can guard him, I guess I mean, who can guard him better? I think Dray can do a lot of things to limit AD’s game and keep him from dominating. First of all, he can take away his dribble, and make him uncomfortable on the perimeter. If you’ve seen Stephen Jackson guard Nowitzki, or Monta Ellis guard Durant, you know what I mean. Second, with his lower center of gravity and 15 extra pounds he should have no problem keeping AD out of the post. Not that AD wants to play there, anyway. And third and most important, with his quickness and strength, Dray can keep AD off the offensive boards. The same way he keeps DeAndre Jordan off the boards when the Warriors crossmatch.
And how, conversely, does AD do when guarding Draymond? Not real well, by the two game evidence of this season. Playing a stretch-four against AD is the perfect way to diminish his extraordinary defensive impact. He simply doesn’t want to come all the way out to the three point line to guard. And even if he did, that would of course open the lane for the Warriors.
In the two games AD played against the Warriors this season, AD went for 30 and 15, and 29 and 10.
Draymond Green went for 24 and 14, and 14 and 14.
As great as Anthony Davis promises to be in his career, I just don’t see a lot of edge for the Pellies in this matchup. Not even enough to swing one game in the Pellies favor.
Ryan Anderson: Matching up a healthy Ryan Anderson against conventional power forwards is a great idea. That’s worked well over his career. Matching him up against other stretch-fours, and in particular the man-eating Draymond Green, not so much.
I’ve seen enough of the matchup to know that Anderson hates it. There is not another defender in the league who can get so completely up into Anderson’s shirt than Draymond. And he has no counter. Dray is way too quick for him.
And on the other end, Dray goes right by him. The Pellies aren’t going to like this matchup in the slightest.
Tyreke Evans: Longtime readers know I’m not a fan of his game. There’s some recent evidence that he’s playing less unselfishly. We’ll see. One thing I know hasn’t changed is that he has extremely poor court vision. And he’s a terrible outside shooter. 30% from three.
If you’ve seen Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and the Warriors front line completely destroy James Harden this season, can there be any doubt in your mind that they will do the same to Tyreke Evans?
I think Klay Thompson will simply eat him alive.
AD’s going to get his. But what happens to the Pellies if Tyreke Evans is simply removed from the board?
Andrew Bogut: I think Andrew Bogut will also eat Tyreke Evans alive. Evans’ game is based on barreling to the basket and drawing fouls. Not going to happen. Bogut had 9 blocks in the last game.
This will be a theme, unless Monty Williams decides to flip a switch.
The Hail Mary: I do see one way in which Monty Williams can flip the switch on the Warriors, and make this an interesting series. Bench Asik, and play AD 40 minutes at center.
What will this do? Well first of all, it will give the Pellies a chance to run Bogut off the court. Remember Andris Biedrins against Eric Dampier? The moment The Squeaky General benched Dampier was the moment that series ended. And We Believed.
Second, Bogut can’t guard AD out on the floor. No prayer.
Next, I would play Tyreke Evans at power forward. He’ll be giving up 10 pounds but no inches to Draymond, and will have the advantage in quickness.
Move Jrue Holiday into the starting lineup, ready or not. Holiday and Gordon in the backcourt, Pondexter and Evans on the wings, and AD in the middle, no longer required to stretch out to the three point line.
And run like the wind.
Now I’m interested. That’s a series I’d like to watch. What can the Warriors do to combat this? Bogut can’t punish Davis in the post, and certainly can’t run with him. Even if the Warriors went small, with Dray at center, there’s a big difference between asking Dray to guard Davis at the four, with Bogut behind him, and asking him to guard him at the five, with no big man help. The Warriors wouldn’t have the edge in team speed, with the Pellies having the smaller backcourt. They wouldn’t have the edge in size, or rebounding. Perhaps not even in defense. Anthony Davis at center is a formidable proposition.
This is how the Pellies might match up best against the Warriors juggernaut. Probably won’t happen. I don’t think Monty Williams has either the chops or the balls to make it happen.
But Gregg Popovich is Monty’s mentor. And Don Nelson is Gregg Popovich’s close playoff collaborator, as Scott Ostler has informed us. Both Pop and Nelly would make this move in a heartbeat. And Pop has a strong interest in slowing the Warriors progress. Very strong.
Maybe someone will make a call.