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2017 NBA Playoffs Second Round: Position by position breakdown of Warriors vs. Jazz

Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the matchups we’ll see when the Warriors kick off their second round series vs. the Utah Jazz.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NBA Playoffs are off to a pretty banging start. San Antonio vs. Memphis was far more competitive than some had assumed, plus we got to watch the Clippers blow a series lead in the playoffs for the FIFTH STRAIGHT YEAR IN A ROW. As a connoisseur of Clippers’ tears, this brings me no small amount of joy and happiness.

Now, with the second round opponent set, let’s dive into some of the position by position matchups that the Warriors will face as they take on the Utah Jazz tomorrow.

Point guard

Stephen Curry vs. George Hill

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

George Hill unfortunately might be known best for his part in the Kawhi Leonard trade, where the Pacers acquired the then-25 year old point guard (Gregg Popovich’s “favorite player”) in exchange for Leonard’s draft rights. We all know how that’s played out. Now in his age-30 season, Hill is still a productive player, actually scoring a career high 16.9 points per game this year in 49 games played. He shot 47.7% from the field, and 40.3% from deep on 4.8 attempted threes per game.

He truly shone in the defining Game 7 of the Clippers series, where he scored 17 points, had five assists, and grabbed four rebounds, all while hounding Chris Paul into a miserable 6-19 shooting night. The question is, can he hope to stay with the league’s two-time defending MVP? My guess is, it’ll be a lot harder than the Paul matchup.

Advantage: Warriors

Shooting Guard

Klay Thompson vs. Joe Ingles

Olympics: Basketball-Men's Team-Preliminary AUS vs USA John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a credit to how far Ingles has come that I found it almost impossible to get a picture of Klay Thompson and he both on the court at the same time. (Side note, what’s good international competition? I miss you, a little bit.) Ingles has been one of the breakout stars for Utah in this postseason. His defense was felt throughout the series, especially as he helped bottle up J.J. Redick. Nominally listed as a small forward, Ingles played lights out in limiting Redick to a horrendous shooting series, hounding the smaller player all across the court.

From the LA Times:

During the series, Redick averaged only 9.1 points, shooting 38% from the field and 34.2% from long range. And those numbers were greatly aided by a 26-point effort in a tight Game 5 loss.

Ingles had a lot to with that, and his offensive game opened up as well. He must have felt a certain amount of sick satisfaction, as the Clippers once famously cut him while his fiance was on a plane from Australia to come watch him play his first ever NBA game. Yet another reason why the Clippers are the worst.

But, for a player who looks like he might be more at home on a YMCA court than starting on a team with a chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals, Ingles has impressed. Again, the question is: Can he match up against Klay Thompson? They both have great length at the two guard position (Ingles is listed at 6’8”), but will he be able to keep up with Thompson as the All Star dances through screen after screen? My guess is, yeah, no.

Advantage: Warriors

Small Forward

Kevin Durant vs. Gordon Hayward

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Ahhh, it’s so nice to see Kevin Durant in a Thunder uniform, and realize how much better he looks in a Warriors one. Hmmm, it’s like glorious, glorious ice cream for my mind. Anyways, Gordon Hayward has really come into his own this year. A first time All Star, Hayward posted averages of 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, in 73 games played, with a PER of 22.2. For comparison, Durant (in a “down year” of sorts where he and Curry spent much time learning how best to mesh on the court) posted averages of 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and (most surprisingly) a career high 1.6 blocks in 62 games played with a PER of 27.6.

Hayward is a fine young player. Picked on spot ahead of Pacers’ Paul George in the 2010 NBA Draft, he’s enjoyed a fine career thus far, averaging 15.7 points per game with a PER of 17.7 for his career.

But, yeah, Durant.

Advantage: Warriors

Power Forward

Draymond Green vs. Boris Diaw

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This may very well be my favorite matchup of the entire postseason. I can safely say that Draymond Green and Boris Diaw are two of my favorite players in the whole league. I mean, c’mon, Diaw is a treasure to be cherished the world round.

There’s this:

And this:

And of course this:

No worries pop only one glass of wine and daily workouts!

A post shared by Borisdiaw (@diawboris) on

He’s the living embodiment of everything that is good, honest, and playful about this world. If I had to pick one NBA player to spend a whole day with, I’m pretty sure I’m going wine tasting with Boris.

But, on the court, he’s no match for a totally-in-his-prime-and-playing-with-a-chip-on-his-shoulder-because-of-Kiki’s-decision Draymond Green. Sure, it’ll be fun to watch them square off (and obviously, Diaw doesn’t even get a huge lion’s share of the minutes — in Game 7, Derrick Favors played 30 minutes to Diaw’s 17), but in the end, the advantage here goes to Draymond Green.

Advantage: Warriors


Zaza Pachulia vs. Rudy Gobert

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We finally have a category where the opposing team has an advantage over the Warriors! Nice! Rudy Gobert has enjoyed a total breakout season. If not for Draymond Green’s overall excellence and ability to guard positions one through five, Gobert very easily could be the Defensive Player of the Year. Heck, stranger things have happened when it comes to people casting votes. He might even win the thing this year, although I find it unlikely. While obviously, Gobert will be matched up against Draymond at times, and against JaVale McGee at times (my second favorite matchup in this series. C’mon, say it with me, “WINGSPAN!”), on paper, Gobert looks primed to dominate the starting center matchup. He’s huge, he’s hungry, and he terrifies opposing players.

[Shoutout Mike Prada for that fantastic piece of videographing]

Gobert scored 14 points, with 12.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game in 81 games, to go along with a PER of 23.3. His 214 blocks over the course of the season led the NBA, and he was a defensive terror throughout the year. But, I’m telling you, at some point in this series, JaVale McGee vs. Gobert is going to become a thing and we are all going to be much pleased.

Advantage: Jazz


Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood vs. JaVale McGee, Shaun Livingston (??), Matt Barnes (??), Andre Iguodala, Ian Clark, Patrick McCaw (future GOAT), and David West

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

You KNOW at some point iso-Joe Johnson is going to get rolling, and you KNOW that Andre Iguodala will be called upon to lock him down. Mark it in pen, bet on this. It’ll be a late game situation, and the outcome of that matchup could very well swing a game.

The Utah Jazz do not play particularly deep. They have their guys, and those guys contribute big minutes. Like I pointed out, in Game 7 of the Clippers series, Joe Johnson and Derrick Favors both played 30+ minutes. However, the Warriors are banged up. Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes are both tentatively expected to play in this series, but how impactful can they be after missing extended periods of time? With so much up in the air, I’m tempted to give the advantage to Utah, just based off the recent stellar play from Johnson and Favors. But, if healthy, the Warriors are much more deadly, and much deeper. Hmmm...

Advantage: Tie, with a decision forthcoming depending on the Warriors’ health


Steve Kerr? Mike Brown? Jarron Collins? vs. Quin Snyder

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Quin Snyder always looks as if he has just returned from a not-relaxing-at-all excursion to the depths of the pit and back. The things he has seemingly seen have altered him ... forever. But, getting past his intensity, Snyder has done a fantastic job molding this team in his image. They are rugged, they play at a maddeningly slow pace, but they get results. They are rock solid defensively, and have the shooters to make things interesting.

On the other hand, everything is up in the air as the Warriors wait to see how Steve Kerr’s back responds to ongoing treatment. There have been some encouraging signs, such as seeing Kerr at practice — plus he has been in constant communication with interim head coach Mike Brown — but Kerr’s health is the Warriors’ number one weakness as they gear up for a hopefully extended playoff run into June.

If Kerr is healthy, he is one of the best coaches in the league. If he misses this series? If he misses the rest of the playoffs? Man ... I’m getting sad. However, Mike Brown is running Kerr’s system, he is running Kerr’s plays. Kerr will have a hand in game preparation, while not being able to manage in-game substitutions. However, the Warriors coaching bench is one of the deepest, most interesting benches in the league. Jarron Collins, Bruce Fraser, and Ron Adams will keep this high-powered rocket flying towards June, even if Kerr is unable to resume his duties.

Even with Kerr out, I think the Warriors have the advantage here.

Advantage: Warriors


So, the only true advantage I see Utah holding is at the center position. Again, the way these matchups ultimately play out will not be so cut and dry. If Gobert is destroying Pachulia, you might see the Warriors’ coaching staff go towards JaVale McGee earlier than expected. Of course, Draymond won’t always be matched up against Boris Diaw, he’ll see a healthy dose of Derrick Favors. And who knows how switches will impact Ingles’ coverage of Klay Thompson.

The only way to find out is to tune in. Game 1 is tomorrow, 7:30 PM PDT, in Oakland.

Let’s do this.

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