Saturday, April 19, 2008
It's finally time...
To make a prediction.
We've looked at the stats, we've looked at the match-ups, we've talked to Mr. Grange, well, it's time to throw my hat in the ring.
BOSH VS HOWARD
I hate to follow the conventional wisdom here, but I strongly believe that these two guys will cancel each other out. They won't necessarily be covering each other, but their stats and their effect on their teams--while significant--will be negligible when you consider the other player's performance.
That being said, here's my big disclaimer: If these games are close late, Bosh should have an advantage over Howard. The Magic have played in around 40 minutes of super-clutch situations (less than 3 minutes to play, neither team ahead by more than 3 points), and Howard has only taken 4 shots. Lewis and Turkoglu have combined to take over 40.
So I say, late in the game, stay tight on Lewis & Turkoglu, make Howard a scorer... see what happens.
Before I finish here though, I have to say this: I have no idea what to make of Rasho Nesterovic's recent play. He finished with career-highs in shooting percentage and free throw percentage. He scored and assisted at the best per-minute rates of his career, and he turned the ball over at his lowest rate ever as well. He averaged 16 points and 7 boards per game while shooting 60% from the field in April.
How drastic was his turnaround? In the first four months of the season, Rasho scored in double figures 3 times (10, 10, and 12). In the last two months of the season (and not counting the final game of the season when starters barely played), Rasho FAILED to score in double figures 3 times (scoring over 16 points 12 times). That is crazy.
Here's one thing to consider: I think there's a correlation between the struggles of Toronto's perimeter players and the success of Rasho. As I wrote in an earlier post, teams are sticking to Toronto's wings, which is opening up the lanes for penetrators and the big men.
All that being said, I'm doing this prediction Dr. Jack style, so here's the first 2 matchups (with their season Player Efficiency Rating in brackets):
CENTRE: HOWARD (22.93, 3rd) > NESTEROVIC (16.23, 16th)
POWER F: BOSH (23.88, 3rd) > LEWIS (16.73, 21st)
Small Forward: As I've written about already, Hedo Turkoglu is integral to what the Magic do. That being said, as I've also already posted, Jamario has done a good job against Turkoglu in the past. Here's the big key: Let the Turk get his points, but if Jamario can negate Hedo's driving and creating ability, that would go a long way towards limiting his effectiveness. Let's put a quantitative measure on that statement: If Jamario can hold him to 4 assists or fewer per game, I think Toronto wins the series. On the other end, I think Orlando will have a variety of defensive schemes that have an ultimate goal of leaving the ball in Jamario's hands near the end of the shot clock. If Moon drives or takes 15-footers when he has the ball in his hands (as opposed to settling for threes), then he will be effective.
SMALL F: TURKOGLU (17.81, 10th) > MOON (15.08, 27th)
Shooting Guard: It's actually weird to say this but Maurice Evans would actually have more value if he were playing a better 2-guard than Anthony Parker. His value is in stopping ball-dominant swingmen (Arenas, McGrady, Carter, etc...), and it's kind of negated when he's playing a catch-and-shoot kind of guy in Parker. He's gone fairly unnoticed in the lead up to this series, but I think we'd be foolish not to at least recognize that Parker MUST have a good series shooting the ball if Toronto hopes to win.
SHOOT G: PARKER (14.45, 25th) > EVANS (13.96 (28th)
Point Guard: I'm going to do this as a group of 5, since both teams use their point guards fairly equally. Again, I'm following conventional wisdom that the Raptors have a big advantage here. How I will stray from conventional wisdom is in my assessment of the Raptors point guard situation. Based on the stats I've found recently, I think it's obvious that this team operates at its best when its two point guards are both fully energized and well-rested (i.e. roughly splitting the available 48 minutes). Though many people get irritated with Ford's shot selection, the fact is he's been hitting a lot of those shots lately (and conversely, Calderon has been missing more than usual of late).
In Jameer Nelson, Keyon Dooling, and Carlos Arroyo, Orlando can run three different guards out who can play point (and sometimes play together). They're all fairly similar in that none shoot or take care of the basketball particularly well. Nelson is probably the strongest individual offensive player, Arroyo the best distributor, and Dooling the best defensive player among them. Either way, Toronto needs to exploit this advantage.
POINT G: FORD (20.37, 6th) & CALDERON (20.51, 5th) > NELSON (15.51, 16th) & DOOLING (14.16, 23rd) & ARROYO (12.89, 36th)
As for the bench, obviously Toronto has the edge at the point (as we've discussed). For swingmen, Toronto can send out Delfino or Kapono who can both shoot (though haven't been able to lately). Orlando counters with Keith Bogans, another player who is only there to defend and shoot open threes when they present themselves.
In terms of bigs, Toronto will send out Bargnani, but I have a sneaking suspicion we'll see a fair amount of Kris Humphries in this series as well. Orlando will not have the services of Brian Cook, but will use the carcass formerly known as Adonal Foyle, and Pat Garrity in limited time.
DELFINO (13.62, 31st SG) & KAPONO (10.79, 54th SF) > BOGANS (10.86, 52nd, SG)
BARGNANI (10.68, 54th PF) & HUMPHRIES (15.72, 18th C) > FOYLE (9.94, 52nd, C)
- Who will win the coaching match-up?
- Will Bargnani produce anything of substance (with that substance not being shit)?
- Can Rasho keep it up?
- Can the shooters find their stroke?
- Can Moon contain Turkoglu?
- Can Rasho contain Howard?
I think Stan Van Gundy wins the coaching matchup, and I think the effect of a strong bench is somewhat negated in the playoffs... those 2 factors seem to indicate Orlando will win the series.
I think Toronto has a big edge at PG, and a reasonable edge at SG. Meanwhile, Orlando has a big edge at C, and another fairly big edge at SF. Therefore, for Toronto to win, the bench must out-play Orlando's bench, and Bosh really has to abuse Rashard Lewis (who is fairly prone to getting abused).
You'll see early on in the series, if Toronto's bench is producing, they'll be winning the second quarters.
Call me crazy, but I think they can do it.
RAPTORS IN 7.