Spurs: Another year, another 60 wins for the Spurs. You may not have noticed, but Gregg Popovich has kept this machine humming, even with Tim Duncan’s retirement. Kawhi Leonard’s impact should not be understated; he has been absolutely outstanding all season long on the sides of the floor and hasn’t slipped much on defense, even with his added scoring load. Previously unknown players, Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons, have become cogs in Pop’s rotation and have provided the athleticism that a team playing Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, David Lee and Pau Gasol desperately needs. Speaking of Pau, he has quietly had the greatest low volume 3pt shooting season of all time, shooting 53.8% on 104 attempts. His lateral quickness remains comparable to a three wheeled shopping cart, but his newly acquired ability to put up three’s at a high clip has helped their offense immensely. Age is not on their side for many of the players in their rotation, but an abundance of experience will more than make up for that.
Grizzlies: Hats off to Mike Conley for becoming the highest paid player in NBA history and still continuing to improve as a player, posting career highs in scoring (20.5), eFG% (54.4%) and 3pt shooting (40.7%) while shooting the most attempts of his 10 year career. He was snubbed yet again as an all-star, but he is absolutely among the NBA’s elite point guards. Coach Fiz elected to move 35 year old Zach Randolph to the bench, slotting JaMychal Green in his starting spot. Green has performed as well as you can ask for, putting up 9 & 7 on limited shots, and Randolph has adapted well into his new role as the leading bench scorer, still averaging 14 points per game. Marc Gasol has continued his overall excellence, all while adding a consistent 3pt shot, much like his brother Pau. Chandler Parsons would have filled out a nice starting 5, but he lost another season due to knee problems, and his absence is going to hit them hard in the playoffs, as 40 year old Vince Carter will have to log heavy minutes.
Keys to the Series
- How will the Grizzlies guard Kawhi Leonard? With Tony Allen and Chandler Parson out with injury, Vince Carter and Wayne Selden will have to share the Kawhi Leonard assignment, and I don’t think that will end up well for the Griz.
- The Gasol Brothers; can one brother get a competitive advantage over another? If Marc can force double teams in the post, he should be able to create good looks for his 3pt shooters against the Spurs defense, while Pau will create havoc with his combo of length and shooting touch.
- Can the Spurs’ aging backcourt hold up for another playoffs? Tony Parker has continued to regress, averaging 10 and 4.5 on 46.6% shooting this season, and 39 year old Manu’s play has been inconsistent all season.
- Will the Grizzlies be able to stop the Spurs’ 3pt shooting onslaught? With limited resources at the wing positions, the Grizzlies will be scrambling to slow down the league’s best perimeter shooting team.
Things are not looking good for Memphis in this series, and I don’t expect to see Coach Fizdale outsmarting Pop to steal many games in this first round matchup. The Spurs should be able to coast into the 2nd round, aided by the 2 way excellence of Kawhi Leonard and the pinpoint shooting slotted around him. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley will give a valiant effort, but their weaknesses at wing will ultimately be too much to keep afloat.
Spurs in 5