The NBA Finals is set to tip off this Thursday. Before that happens, however, I feel that a breakdown of the series by position is in order. Just what team has an edge over the other? Well, let us examine this question a little closer:
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fisher
The overwhelming majority, I believe, would settle with Rondo on this one. The guy is faster, has a better understanding of how to run his team’s offense and, at this point in his career, is a much better basketball player than D-Fish. Rondo has averaged 16.7 ppg and 10 dimes compared to Fisher’s 11.1 ppg and 3.1 apg so far in the playoffs. One thing Fisher still has on Rondo, I believe, is ‘game smarts’. The guy knows what to do in every situation. That comes with the territory, however; Fisher has a lot more playoff experience than Rondo does. This is definitely a nice advantage for Fisher to have over Rondo, yet I still believe Rondo is the player I would much rather have at the point guard spot.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant vs. Ray Allen
Man, I sure do love to watch Ray Allen light it up. I still believe he has the smoothest shooting stroke in basketball and has been incredibly vital to the Celtics success so far this postseason. This, however, is a moot point when you compare him to the best basketball player on the planet. Kobe Bryant can do it all and never seems to disappoint. Averaging 29.4 ppg, 6.2 apg and 5.1 rpg, you can surely see why that is. Compare that to Allen’s line of 16.8, 3.0 and 3.6 and there isn’t much comparison. I’m not trying to take anything away from Ray, but facts are facts and it is obvious who has the advantage between these two great players.
Small Forward: Ron Artest vs. Paul Pierce
Ron Artest has been up and down in these playoffs, much like his first season with the Lakers. Paul Pierce is an enforcer who has done more than enough to guide his team to the NBA Finals. Now, do you see any correlation between these two players just by what I have said so far? Artest is averaging a pedestrian 11.5 ppg to go along with 3.7 rpg. He is also shooting a dismal 41% from the floor. He has, however, been very good defensively and has averaged just over a steal-and-a-half a game. Pierce has been extremely solid for his team, averaging 19.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 3.6 apg. Nobody on the Magic seemed to know how to guard this guy (of course, a lot of players don’t seem to know how to guard this guy). When the Celtics need a big shot, there is no other person they would rather give the ball to than Pierce. I, for one, see him having a nice series against L.A. He gets the nod over Artest.
Power Forward: Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett
By far the toughest match-up to rate, both Gasol and Garnett are extremely vital to their respective teams. Gasol, the number two scoring option behind Bryant, has been nearly un-guardable these entire playoffs and looks to continue that trend against the C’s. Garnett’s numbers have been down, but it’s the way that he controls the floor defensively that makes him so valuable. It is because of this reason that I have to give the nod to KG, albeit just barely. I know a lot of people might grill me for this selection, especially if you go by just the numbers (Gasol: 20.0 ppg, 10.9 rpg; Garnett: 14.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg), but the fact remains that when Garnett is on the floor, the Celtics are not just a better team, they are a much better team. Defensively, he is still a ‘shutdown’ guy. He manages the floor, in that regard, about as good as anybody and is the vocal leader of the team. You just can’t coach something like that. He has also become such an unselfish player, at times almost too unselfish, and seems to want to do everything he can to get his team a victory. KG slightly over Gasol on this one.
Center: Andrew Bynum vs. Kendrick Perkins
Bynum has been pretty disappointing up to this point in the playoffs. He has averaged 9.1 ppg and 7.7 rpg going into the Finals. Perkins hasn’t exactly lit it up either. His numbers, 5.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, are pretty much on par with the type of player he is. He is much more defensive-oriented than Bynum is, but is still the inferior player. Bynum, only 22, needs to have a big series. L.A. is going to need every ‘key cog’ to be working in this series against Boston and I think Bynum could be the X-factor. If he can average in the 13-15 ppg range and up his rpg to about 8-9, then I think L.A. wins this series. Perkins is not a scorer, nor is he asked to be. His game is disrupting the flow of the game defensively by teaming up with KG down low. And, in his defense, he is really, really good at doing this. If he can keep his temper in-check and play his game, he could be extremely valuable this series. In the end, however, I have to give Bynum the edge because he is just a better all-around player than Kendrick Perkins is.
Bench: L.A. vs. Boston
So, the starters have played out their position battles. What about both team’s respective benches? Well, with L.A. you have guys like Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic. All of these guys are important to how this series is going to play out, especially Odom. He is so tough to guard because he can play all 5 positions thanks to his size. If he has a monster series, than Boston is in some serious trouble. With Boston, you have Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson. I like what Boston has. They have a combination of guys with size (insert Nate Robinson size joke here), scoring ability and rebounding. At any time, one of these guys can get hot. Watching Nate-Rob in Game 6 against Orlando was flat-out awesome. He single-handedly willed his team in the 2nd quarter and you just knew Boston had no chance of losing that game. So with that being said, and after looking at both teams benches, I give a slight edge to Boston. I just think they are a tad-bit deeper than L.A. is. It could end up being the difference in who wins this series
EDGE: Boston’s bench
That ends the position battle breakdown with both teams having 3 position edge’s a piece. Perhaps it is a foreshadowing of things to come in the series? Only time will tell, but I can almost assure you that this is going to be an epic series.