Brandon Jennings v. Louis Williams
Jennings is making his first NBA start, while Williams is beginning his first full season as a starting point guard in the league. Williams is traditionally more of a scorer, think Monta Ellis, and will look to have the Sixers continuously running. Whether Williams can be as effective as Andre Miller has been for Philadelphia over the last few years remains to be seen. Either way, he’s at the very least a proven commodity as a scorer. That cannot be said about the rookie Jennings, who could average ten assists a game or seven turnovers for all Milwaukee knows. He’s as unproven as it gets.
Michael Redd vs. Andre Iguodala
Redd is coming off a strong exhibition season that served as a confidence boost after not having played a game since a January knee injury. Iguodala comes off a season where he seemed to level out and show his platform as a player, until taking it up a notch in the playoffs. Iggy is a very versatile player with incredible athleticism, think early Richard Jefferson, only with his head up at all times. Redd has more in his offensive repertoire than Iguodala but will have fits with him on the defensive end.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Thaddeus Young
LRMAM is the Bucks best defender and with each passing year Young gets closer to being the Sixers best player. Young takes good shots, scores at a very high percentage and can finish on the break with the best of them. He was perfect in the Sixers get out and go offense two years ago. In coach Eddie Jordan’s new Princeton offense? Remains to be seen. He’ll be filling the Caron Butler role and he absolutely has the talent to succeed. He’ll get his money’s worth against LRMAM though, who won’t concede anything and can stay with him in the half court. Offensively Young takes this one, but LRMAM is a lock down defender.
Kurt Thomas v. Elton Brand
Two years ago Brand was widely recognized as one of the best power forwards in the game and a nightly double double. Now? I’m not sure he’s that much better than Kurt Thomas. Brand played only 23 games last year and played ineffectively in pretty much all of them. He seems out of place with the rest of the Sixers, but he can still score around the hoop a little. While not the shot blocker he once was, Brand could give the Bucks problems with his length as well. Surprisingly though, he won’t be anything Kurt Thomas can’t handle on defense.
Advantage (not by much): 76ers
Andrew Bogut v. Samuel Dalembert
The Dalembeast can run fast and block shots, but not much else. Bogut will have problems finishing around Dalembert due to his length and shot blocking accumen, but he won’t pose as much of a threat on offense. This should free up Bogut to help with slashers Young, Iguodala and Williams. Only Iguodala serves as a major threat to find Dalembert for dump off buckets to make things even easier for Bogut.
Hakim Warrick, Charlie Bell, Luke Ridnour and Dan Gadzuric
Jason Kapono, Mareese Speights, Royal Ivey and Rodney Carney
Mareese Speights is an efficiency machine. Speights opened the regular season by thoroughly outplaying Elton Brand, shooting 10-11 en route to 26 points in a loss to Orlando. Orlando features Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat or three guys more powerful than anyone on the Bucks. Keeping Speights off the glass and away from the bucket will be hard. Kapono is your typical big shooting poor defending white guy guard/forward and Ivey is still an adequate defender and crappy player, though he did somehow find a way to hit a couple threes against the Bucks last year. Whether the Bucks bench can muster enough offense to offset Speights and Kapono will go a long way towards deciding this one.
My prediction? Bucks 94 – Sixers 90
I know I just said the Sixers are better at virtually every position, but I still have hope. Hopefully the Sixers will come out of the gates slow as they continue to learn the Princeton offense and how to play with Elton Brand/without Andre Miller. Losing Miller hurt them a lot more than it helped the Portland Trail Blazers. They no longer have the coach on the floor or the guy who knew just where to get the ball to everyone. Lou Williams may grow into that role eventually, but methinks he’s not there yet. I’m hoping for a sloppy game from Philly that the Bucks can take advantage of.