Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Defending the Western Conference

In my previous post, I made a case for Portland pulling the trigger on the rumored Devin Harris/Jason Kidd trade and bringing Harris over to run the point for the next six years. Part of my rationale was that Outlaw might need to be traded on general principal so as to prevent a logjam at the 4 down the road. However, the bigger reason is that Harris seems to be the perfect fit to play next to Roy in the Blazers' backcourt. He can catch and shoot, he's quick, and he can guard the league's fastest and most skilled point guards.

As promised, here is a breakdown of every backcourt in the Western Conference and how a proposed Roy/Harris pairing could defend virtually any combo of guards currently in existence:

New Orleans - Chris Paul and Morris Peterson. The Blazers currently have no answer for Paul's quickness, but Harris actually does a nice job on him. Peterson is one of the better guys in the league to put on Roy, but the reverse is also true. Harris is also much better suited to guarded Jannero Pargo than anyone on the Blazers' current roster. Portland is far more capable of defending the Hornets backcourt after the trade.

Phoenix - Steve Nash and Raja Bell. The Suns actually present a lot of the same problems as the Hornets for the current Blazers. The starting due of Blake and Roy does a decent job against Nash and Bell (as with Peterson above, Bell guards Roy fairly well but can also be guarded easily), but Nash and Leandro Barbosa is a handful. Adding Harris upgrades Portland's quickness and he can guard either Nash or Barbosa. Major upgrade after the deal.

Dallas - Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. I presume this will be the Dallas backcourt after such a trade and if so, Portland would match up great. Roy destroyed Kidd at both ends of the court in a recent game in New Jersey and Harris matches up well with Terry (and knows all his tricks). Eddie Jones looks to be the third guard with Barea getting some run, but those two aren't scaring anyone. I keep saying this, but what are the Mavs thinking with this trade?

Utah - Deron Williams and Ronnie Brewer. As it currently stands, Roy guards Williams and the Blazers play Jack a lot against Utah because he's a little stronger and can keep Brewer from posting up or hitting the glass. After the trade, Portland might need to play James Jones or Martell Webster some at the two and limit Harris' minutes if Brewer were to get loose. Williams is too strong for Harris, so Roy will have to continue guarding the Jazz' brilliant point guard. Kyle Korver is just a shooter so when he plays the 2 it shouldn't effect the defense much. This is probably the only team in the West that will continue to present matchup problems even after the trade (although I don't think they are significantly worse).

L.A. Lakers - Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers are a bit like the Jazz in the sense that they don't have a ton of burners in the backcourt, so adding Harris doesn't necessarily erase any preexisting issues. In fact, his slight build could present a problem against the physical Fisher and the taller Sasha Vujacic off the bench. Still, the Lakers backcourt is all about Kobe, so the challenge of stopping them rests with Roy, now as before.

San Antonio - Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. I know that Finley actually starts, but lets be real here. Parker was going to give Portland a ton of problems and was one of the primary reasons why I wrote yesterday that I don't think the Blazers can beat San Antonio this year in a series. I still don't think they can even with Harris, but their odds are a whole lot better. He might be the only guy in the league as fast as Parker from end to end. Roy would draw Manu, as he does now. Big upgrade (and if you don't believe me, find yourself some footage of Blake trying to guard Parker in the playoffs last year).

Denver - Anthony Carter and Allen Iverson. Roy can't guard Iverson (at least not without getting into serious foul trouble), so bringing in Harris frees him up to destroy Carter, Chucky Atkins, or J.R. Smith. Harris has done a nice job on A.I. in the past and has the speed and tenacity to bother him. Big upgrade.

Golden State - Baron Davis and Monta Ellis. Adding Harris would be huge on this front. Roy can guard the bruising Davis and Harris can check the blur that is Ellis. Right now, Golden State has a significant speed advantage, but that would be largely negated through this trade.

Houston - Rafer Alston and Tracy McGrady. New team, same old story. Alston is quick and McGrady is tall. Harris and Roy are the perfect foil.

Sacramento - Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin. See Houston.

L.A. Clippers - Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley. After the Jazz and Lakers, the Clips probably have the third "biggest" backcourt in the league. Cassell plays a physical style, Mobley likes to work in the post, and someday Shaun Livingston may return as a big point guard. So Portland may have some tricky matchups here, but it is largely irrelevant because the Clippers suck.

Memphis - Mike Conley and Mike Miller. As with Paul, Ellis, Parker, Iverson, and others, Portland currently has mediocre options for checking Conley but would suddenly have the perfect defender in Harris.

Seattle - Earl Watson and Kevin Durant. Yawn. By the time this matters, Seattle will have Derrick Rose manning the point and Durant playing a forward spot.

Minnesota - Sebastian Telfair and Randy Foye. Even if the Wolves were to go big with Foye at the point and McCants at the 2, Portland would be just fine.

As it currently stands, the Blazers have serious matchup issues against several teams with quick point guards, most notably Denver (Iverson), Golden State (Ellis), San Antonio (Parker), Phoenix (particularly when Nash and Barbosa play together), and Dallas (Harris himself). They also have potential matchup problems with Houston (Alston) and Memphis (Conley), although neither of those players are quite deadly enough to exploit them. Adding Harris would help solve all those problems. And on the flip side, the "big backcourt" challenges posed by the Jazz, Lakers, and Clippers wouldn't really get any worse.

So yeah, I still think this is a great trade for the Blazers.

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