In this series of posts Swarm and Sting looks to dissect upcoming matchups that the New Orleans Hornets could face. In it we look to assess the positional analysis, previous history and other outlying factors. The first of these is the San Antonio Spurs.
With a little more that 20 games left on the NBA schedule the playoff race is starting to heat up. Many teams seeded 5 to 8 look to secure their spot in the postseason. The San Antonio Spurs meanwhile look to fend off the likes of Dallas and Los Angeles for the number one seed in the Western Conference.
The Spurs have played their best basketball this year claiming the best record in the entire league. They have been stout at home also holding the best record among every team in the league. It’s somewhat surprising that the Spurs still remain relevant. Many commentators figured that they would disappear into history as Hall-Of-Famer to be Tim Duncan faded. However the strong organisational structure has built a platform of success. Solid depth and a keen eye for underrated talent has kept the Spurs from falling from the top and because of that they now have a chance to compete for another NBA Championship.
Point Guard: Chris Paul vs. Tony Parker
Both tremendous basketball players in their own right Chris Paul and Tony Parker continue to have battle that show off the strength, however it’s still clear who the better one is. Parker has his championships, Paul has his…err…MVP considerations. It almost seems unfair that one has accomplished more than the other, but that’s the way sports are. While Parker has speed he doesn’t have the shooting consistency/range of Paul, nor the same level of passing efficiency and ball handling. Don’t get me wrong, Tony Parker is good, but Chris Paul good? No.
Winner: Chris Paul
Shooting Guard: Willie Green vs. Manu Ginobili
When the New Orleans Hornets sent Marcus Thornton out and brought in Carl Landry the talent depth at the shooting guard position took a massive hit. Defensively Green is average but matching up against Manu Ginobili makes things exponentially tough. Manu has always been known for his craftiness, he knows the game and how to get his points. What terrifies most opponents is his shooting, but what terrifies me is the dominance he will put down if he faces a dude like Willie Green. No brainer here.
Winner: Manu Ginobili
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Richard Jefferson
It’s tough to asses both of these players on a direct basis because the roles they play are not in any way individual. Trevor and Richard act as athletic swing men that compliment the scheme in which their respective coaches installed. The amazing thing though is that Jefferson gets the nod for his blistering hot shooting from outside (43%).
Winner: Richard Jefferson
Power Forward: David West vs Tim Duncan
Honestly, I didn’t know which way to cut this one. It’s well known to many that David West is my favourite player in the league. His toughness and the demeanor in which he holds himself will always have me hold him in a higher light. But we are truth seekers here, not idol worshipers, so finding out who really had the advantage was imperative. So what I did was find a player comparison chart to see just how these guys have been fairing this season. Things turned out to be dead even. While Duncan possesses veteran savviness (one could argue West does too), David West posts better per-averages. Getting down to the advanced stuff things turn out to be split down the middle as well. One is better at rebounding, while the other shoots more efficiently. One has a better PER, while another has a better offensive and defensive rating. Go check it out for yourselves and you’ll see that both players are as valuable as each other to their respective ball clubs.
Center: Emeka Okafor vs Dejuan Blair
The Hornets defense has completely transformed from one of the worst, to one of the best in the league. In large part this is thanks to Emeka Okafor’s play at the pivot position. He seems comfortable in his role and is commanding the paint with authority. While Blair is a terrific rebounder he is very undersized. Post-ups will not be where he beats Okafor, it’ll be through off-ball rotation and his team-mates taking the attention away from him. In other words the only way that Blair would ever “win” this matchup would be if his team-mates (like Ginobili and Parker) were dominating their matchups forcing Okafor to help to much. While both aren’t the most gifted offensively they have their roles with the respective teams. I still think though, with the way Emeka has been playing, that he gets the advantage.
Winner: Emeka Okafor
The Spurs-Hornets rivalry was kicked into life about the time of the 2008 playoffs when the Hornets were one win away from going to the Western Conference finals. While they had some great regular season battles it wasn’t until that series commenced that the give and take of the sides came into the spot light.
The Head-to-Head matchup doesn’t paint a bright picture. The Hornets have a 20-41 record against the Spurs and they are their second worst opponent (topped by the Lakers). In recent history New Orleans has done a good job of actually beating San Antonio which makes you think how bad we used to be against them.
X-Factor: The Hornets Offense
It’s been discussed at length the problems the Hornets have had over this season, the main one is their offense. The fluctuations between efficient and non-existent are staggering. New Orleans has the worst fourth quarter offense in the league and starts their quarters off very slowly and with little energy. You might think that Manu Ginobili or Carl Landry might act as “X-Factors” but the Hornets offense is the thing that will separate them in a series like this. It’s all well and good being efficient on offense, but being inconsistent? That’s unacceptable. The playoffs are a time when defense steps up and physicality is at an all time high. If New Orleans can’t put together good offense now, then what makes anyone think they can do it in the playoffs?
Chris Paul is the answer here. Whether he likes it or not, he has to score 20-plus points on this team for them to stand a chance. No one outside of David West possesses the raw ability to get a variety of shots up and act as a scorer. It’s a scary thought, but until Paul realizes that perhaps getting his points averages up (while maintaining his efficiency) is more important to this team than dribbling it up the court and passing it to Willie Green to run a pick-and-roll.
If this series was to go ahead you’d be safe with your Spurs pick. Unless Chris Paul rediscovers his dominance then San Antonio will find it easy winning a series against the Hornets. I’m not saying it would be a walk-over you would expect the Hornets to take it to 5 or 6 games.