Before everyone skips the rest of this article and goes straight to the comments section to admonish me about overvaluing our severely under-performing small forward please, I beg you, hear me out…
In the first two game of the New Orleans/San Antonio series, the Spurs offense looked lethargic, their defense looked suspect, and their defensive stopper Bruce Bowen looked, well, vincible
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is a great coach and, after going down 2-0, he made two key adjustments that helped turn the series around. One of the key adjustments was to switch Bowen off of Chris Paul and to put him on Peja Stojakovic, who had previously been lighting them up in the series. Needless to say, this switch changed the whole complexion of the series and eventually allowed the Spurs to squeeze the life out of the Hornets over the next 5 games.
The second change, an equally genius switch, was his decisions to insert Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup. This gave the Spurs another weapon in their half court offense who could not only spot up for the 3-ball but also create his own shot off the dribble. This really gave the Spurs offense a breath of life, as before they looked oh-so-predictable. With Ginobili’s defensive assignment being Morris Peterson, he was able to expend most of his energy on the offensive end as well.
Now, the smart readers are already figuring it out. They’re going “ooooh, this guy is saying Vladdy should be our Peja and force Pop to switch Bowen on him.” Yes, my smart readers, that is exactly what I am proposing.
These are the expected match-ups for Game 1 -
Now for a moment, lets ignore the question of who’s going to guard Odom, and lets look at Vlad. When Peja was killing the Spurs he shot 2-4 from downtown in Game 1 and 5-7 in Game 2. In the last two wins against Utah, Vlad shot 2-3 and 3-5 respectively from downtown, so clearly this isn’t an preposterous proposition. If the Lakers can make him a priority on offense a little more, and get him 3-5 more 3 point FGAs, then he has the potential to emulate Peja’s Game 1 & 2 success.
And if he does, then boy do the Spurs have match-up issues.
Let’s see how this would work.
For all of the scenarios below Parker vs. Fisher is assumed, unless specifically noted otherwise.
Option 1, Put Bowen on Vlad -
They could go with Bowen on Vlad, and stick Ginobili on Bryant, but that would be an invitation for Kobe to “take what the defense gives him.” Now Ginobili is no slouch, but he definitely gives more on defense than Bowen does.
Result: Not a good idea for the Spurs.
Option 2, Put Udoka on Kobe, and Switch Bowen on Vlad -
This seems like a great idea at first. Udoka doesn’t hurt you on offense for the same reason Bowen doesn’t hurt you on offense, he can shoot the corner 3-ball very, very well. This means you can put Udoka on Kobe and Bowen on Vlad (or vice versa) and Bam, problem solved. Right?
Wrong! If you play Udoka and Bowen at the same time, then you simply cannot have Ginobili in the game at all because, with Parker guarding Fisher, Ginobli is now stuck guarding either Lamar or Gasol… Yikes!
Why is it so important to have Ginobili in the game then you ask? Because the Spurs half-court offense was very predictable without him.
Result: A very, very bad idea for the Spurs.
Option 3, Put Udoka on Kobe, and Switch Bowen on Vlad, and put in Ginobili for Parker -
This would solve the Ginobili vs. Odom or Gasol problem, and it might even be the best option that the Spurs have, but somehow I doubt that would go over too well with Parker.
Result: Possibly the best solution, but very unlikely.
Option 4, Tell Ginobili to man-up and guard Vlad -
If it were that simple, Pop would have done that in the New Orleans/San Antonio series and kept Bowen on Parker.
I’m not saying that any of these above scenarios are going to happen, or even remotely likely for that matter. Personally I would start Sasha instead of Vlad, because that would provide the same Peja-like offensive production without the risk of Space Cadetness.
The point is people, Vlad is immensely important part of our starting lineup, and if he produces anything close to his pay grade, I would put money on a sweep.
As it is, I have the Lakers in 5, 6 at the most.
What do you guys think? Do you feel that Vlad can be the key for the Lakers?