Thursday, October 21, 2010

Making the Matchups: Utah Jazz

And so on and on and on we go.  Pop has settled into a starting lineup so I'll use that for now, and we'll move forward from there, assuming that Tiago Splitter is healthy by the time this matchup really means anything significant.

Spurs Jazz
PG Tony Parker Deron Williams
SG Manu Ginobili Raja Bell
SF Richard Jefferson Andrei Kirilenko
PF DeJuan Blair Paul Millsap
C Tim Duncan Al Jefferson
Bench George Hill
James Anderson
Bobby Simmons
Matt Bonner
Antonio McDyess
Earl Watson
C.J. Miles
Gordon Hayward
Jeremy Evans
Kyrylo Fesenko

So I know I'm leaving off Tiago Splitter and Mehmet Okur, but both are currently injured, and while we might have an idea of what might happen when they get back, I'm not going to jump into any major conclusions.  I'm no longer entirely confident in a Splitter/Duncan starting lineup, but of course, there's no real way of telling that having yet to see Splitter play a single NBA game.  Okur will likely slide back to the starting C spot for the Jazz when he returns, moving Jefferson back to a more natural PF slot and Millsap back to the bench.  I know that Alonzo Gee could surprise us and somehow make the roster, but I'm really leaning towards Pop going for at least the known quantity of Bobby Simmons.  Probably not the greatest name you can get, but he'll get the job done. 

A lot of question goes to how well Al Jefferson will do replacing Carlos Boozer.  While putting up similar stats, Jefferson is a pretty different player from Boozer, preferring to post up on the left block and isolate.  I can't say I've seen Jefferson play enough to determine anything, but I think he'll be someone that Pop focuses a the defense on a lot.  I also expect Pop to try to push the ball inside, trying to get Jefferson into early foul trouble since he's been known to not move his feet very well on defense.  While Raja Bell is a definitive improvement over Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver or rather a fusion of the two, I still don't know that he'll entirely mitigate the threat that is Manu Ginobili.  If a matchup occurs early in the season, it'll be interesting to see how well Blair matches up against his undersized counterpart of Paul Millsap.  Both are stellar rebounders and just have a nose for the ball, it'll be an interesting matchup.  When Splitter and Okur return to the lineups, I expect Pop to have Tiago guard Memo partially because a sweet-shooting European big is something Tiago is used to seeing.

What this matchup will ultimately boil down to will be the Tony Parker/Deron Williams matchup.  Williams has generally fallen short of the Chris Paul/Deron Williams debate, but I actually really like Williams much better.  For one, he's a lot bigger than Paul and with his speed and handles tacked on to that size, he becomes a nightmare to guard.  While Derrick Rose may have gotten the most recent "Jason Kidd with a jump shot" comparisons, the original "Jason Kidd with a jump shot" was and to me still is Deron Williams.  Not only that, he has a very good vision and basketball IQ, he's someone that Jerry Sloan says he trusts to make decisions on the floor, so he doesn't call as many plays for him to run, this from a coach that coached John Stockton.  While Parker doesn't have the size, he certainly has the speed to compensate.  I would try to attack Williams on offense, make him work hard on defense and force the ball out of his hands either via a difficult shot or having to dish off to teammates early.  Sloan has always been a huge fan of the pick-and-roll so depending on how well Williams and either Millsap or Jefferson are connecting, our pick-and-roll defense needs to be impeccable.  Essentially, the Spurs need to try to force the other Jazz players to try to make plays.  This will be especially difficult trying to contain Al Jefferson on the left block as well.

Essentially the key to this matchup is aggressiveness, which seems ironic given that the Jazz are typically known as a fairly aggressive team, but the Spurs need to match if not surpass that aggressiveness.  However, that's not to say that the Spurs don't play smart.  They need to pressure the Jazz on offense, forcing silly fouls, especially from their frontcourt.  Jazz typically are very physical so the Spurs can't be intimidated.  On defense, they need to force the ball out of Deron Williams's hands, that would be ideal, making Raja Bell make tough plays, but most importantly, they need to play smart on those pick-and-rolls, rotating well and showing hard on the guards, forcing penetration along the baseline to shot blockers, like we always do (or try to).

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