“Are you not entertained! Are you not entertained! Is this not why you are here!” –Maximus, Gladiator
Yes Russell. This is exactly why we are here. Honestly, can any of you ever being more excited for a 1-8 matchup going into the series? I can’t. The Warriors have been the best team in basketball over the course of the regular season, as their record indicates, but the Pelicans have one of the most exciting players in the game in Anthony Davis. No offense to Russell Westbrook, because he has been phenomenal in his efforts, but the Durant-less Thunder did not intrigue me. The Davis-led Pelicans do.
The Splash Brothers are the best backcourt in basketball, but the matchup is not as lopsided as it may look on the surface. Jrue Holiday has returned from the incredibly vague “lower right leg” injury that kept him from playing from mid-January until last Friday. He is still not 100%, but if he can provide them solid bench minutes then that is a huge help, as Holiday is a good all-around player.
Tyreke Evans has had the classic high draft pick-to-overrated-to-undervalued career arc, and while he was playing the three earlier in the season when Holiday was healthy he made the transition back to point guard after Holiday went down. He was always a decent NBA scorer, but he was also always an average-at-best pure point guard with Sacramento. However, he has filled in nicely and figures to keep the starting role going forward, as he is one of the major non-Brow reasons the Pellies are even in the playoffs.
Eric Gordon is another oft-injured player, but he’s been healthy for the whole second half of the season. He is a very good shooter, and until Jrue Holiday is back to full health he is Nola’s best perimeter defender. Scratch that. Anthony Davis is actually their best perimeter defender, but despite his albatross wingspan, he can’t be everywhere. As for Norris Cole, his playoff experience could prove to be a valuable commodity for New Orleans when they have their sub packages in the game.
The Warriors’ backcourt needs no introduction. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are having unreal seasons, and they get legitimate bench minutes from Shaun Livingston when he isn’t getting suspended for “cup checking” people. Livingston will also likely be called upon defensively in this series as a taller point guard to guard the small forward/point guard hybrid Evans. Curry might have some trouble defensively guarding the bruising, slashing offensive style of Evans.
Edge: Splash Brothers, by less than you think but still a substantial margin
Much like the Cavaliers-Celtics frontcourt section begins and ends with LeBron, the Pelicans-Warriors frontcourt section begins and ends with “The Brow”. Anthony Davis might not be human. He looks like a freak of nature that was sent to Earth to destroy the basketball hopes and dreams of millions of people. He is tall, rangy, and quick defensively. He is an uber-talented shot blocker who rarely fouls, and is also adept at picking pockets and jumping passing lanes. Offensively, he doesn’t shoot three’s, but he does pretty much everything else. If his team was better and he hadn’t missed 15 games to injury, he’d probably be in the top 3 or 4 of the MVP voting (and it’s still not entirely out of the question). He will win one before he’s done though.
As for the rest of the Pelican frontcourt, Omer Asik is a good rebounder and rim protector, but he won’t provide much else and Quincy Pondexter can only be described as a pleasant surprise for New Orleans fans. As far as bench production, they’ve gotten good help from Alexis Ajinca, and Ryan Anderson is an excellent floor spacer as a stretch four off the bench.
The Warriors’ frontcourt is overshadowed by the tremendous guard play, but it is just as important for Golden State’s success. Harrison Barnes has pretty much never lived up to the lofty expectations that his immense physical abilities have brought upon him. Nevertheless, he has developed into a nice player for the Warriors. Andre Iguodala is well past his prime, but he is still valuable as a 3-and-D sixth man for the Warriors.
Draymond Green is a defensive terror. He actually may be the most well equipped player in the league to guard Anthony Davis one-on-one, although Kawhi Leonard and a few others could lay a claim. Green is big enough to not get completely eaten whole by Davis down low, and quick enough on the perimeter to hang with Davis when he goes off-the-bounce and get a hand up when Brow pulls up from mid-range. As for Andrew Bogut, he may never be able to live down being a disappointing first overall pick, especially considering that Chris Paul went three picks later, but he has been the best rim protector in the league this season and the driving force behind the league’s best defense. Oh, and let’s not forget about David Lee, who could start for at least 20 NBA teams currently, but for now is a remarkably productive 7th or 8th man.
I said we’d begin and end this with Anthony Davis, so let’s close this section by saying that the NBA Playoffs just wouldn’t have been right without “The Brow”. Welcome to what we hope will be the first of many playoff series to come.
Edge: New Orleans has the best player, but Golden State’s depth wins out
No offense, but Steve Kerr is a significantly better coach than Monty Williams. Kerr is going to finish in the top 3 for Coach of the Year, and has helped the Dubs make the jump from good to great.
Edge: Golden State
What an upset might look like
“The Brow” averages a quintuple-double. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson hit the biggest and most prolonged collective cold spells of their careers. Curry’s size becomes a liability on the defensive end guarding Middle Linebacker Tyreke Evans. You know what? This actually doesn’t sound quite as crazy as I thought it would. Welcome to the Wild, Wild West.
As much as I like Anthony Davis and New Orleans, they don’t have the depth to hang with the Dubs. However, I do think “The Brow” will go off one game and the Pellies steal one at the Smoothie King Center. Warriors in 5.