OAKLAND -- The Warriors on Saturday enter the Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies in a best-of-seven series. We take a look at the matchups in five categories: Starting guards, forwards, centers, as well as overall depth and coaching.
Guards: The Warriors, with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, have the most explosive backcourt in the NBA. One is an MVP candidate. Both were All-Star Game starters. Thompson remains a solid defender, and Curry this season added defense to his repertoire. The Grizzlies counter with Nick Calathes or Beno Udrih and Courtney Lee. Calathes and Udrih are backups for a reason. Lee is a streaky shooter on his fifth team in seven years. If Mike Conley were healthy, we could debate. He's not. This is unfair.
Whopping Edge goes to the Warriors.
Forwards: The Warriors have Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, the Grizzlies counter with Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. Green is a gutsy 6-foot-7 power forward and Barnes is like a rainbow – marvelous but rarely seen. Randolph, who will be defended mostly by Andrew Bogut but occasionally by Green, is savvy but containable. He's also a poor defender. Allen is a fine defender whose offense is so limited each bucket is a surprise. This is a contest. But the Warriors, with Green, have the most valuable player in the group.
Very Slight Edge goes to the Warriors.
Centers: It's Bogut against Marc Gasol, perhaps the NBA's top all-around center. They're both outstanding defenders and superb passers. Bogut is the superior rebounder, Gasol the better scorer. It's a shame that Bogut will spend most of his time on Randolph. But that implies Green can be trusted to defend Gasol.
Very Slight Edge goes to the Grizzlies, only because the frontcourts are about even.
Depth: Here is where it gets interesting. The Warriors have one of the league's most inconsistent benches, awful and productive in equal doses. It's essentially Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Mo Speights, David Lee and Leandro Barbosa against Jeff Green, Vince Carter, Kosta Koufos and Udrih or Calathes. The Warriors can go deeper, and that will come in handy for a team that will push the pace at every opportunity. Rotations normally get shorter in the playoffs. Don't be surprised if the Warriors are an exception. They're the deeper club.
Edge goes to the Warriors.
Coaching: It's Steve Kerr, the well-known player who became a rookie coach and took the league by storm, against Dave Joerger, the unknown who replaced Lionel Hollins. After a rough start in his first season, Joerger (now in his second season) has done a nice job. His staff is solid, led by veteran coach Jeff Bzdelik. Kerr, however, has two ace assistants with defined roles, Alvin Gentry works with offense and Ron Adams handles defense.
Solid Edge goes to the Warriors.
Prediction: Warriors in five.