NBA Playoffs 2011: Who on the Dallas Mavericks Will Guard Russell Westbrook?
There are a lot of difficult matchups for both teams. How will the Mavericks try to slow down Kevin Durant? Can anyone guard Dirk? Can the Thunder match the firepower on the Mavs bench?
Perhaps the most difficult matchup is Russell Westbrook.
It will be very difficult for Dallas to neutralize that speed with the guards on their roster.
This list will list five players who could be matched up with Westbrook during this series—the order is based on potential effectiveness...
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5: J.J. Barea
Barea may be the quickest guard on the Mavs, but he has huge disadvantages against Westbrook in terms of strength, length and vertical explosiveness.
Plus, Westbrook is quicker than Barea too.
I don't expect to see Barea spending much time in this matchup, but he could be a good change-of-pace defender for Dallas to throw at Westbrook from time to time.
4: Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd spent most of the Western Conference Semifinals defending Kobe Bryant. While that is certainly a tough matchup, Westbrook will cause more problems for Kidd.
At this point in his career, Kobe is nowhere near as fast or quick as Westbrook.
After dealing with Andre Miller and Derek Fisher through the first two rounds, Westbrook is by far the most explosive point guard the Mavs have faced this postseason.
At 38 years old, Kidd will really struggle to stay in front of the Thunder point guard—especially in the open court.
They'll be matched up with each other a decent amount because they're the starting point guards, but expect the Mavs to try a lot of other things to slow Westbrook down.
3: Jason Terry
Jason Terry is 33 years old, and is not in the same category as Westbrook athletically, but he's one of the most competitive players on the Mavs.
He'll spend most of his time on James Harden and may even play Kevin Durant from time to time, but Dallas will throw him at Westbrook too.
3: Rodrigue Beaubois
Beaubois has played in just four games this postseason and has averaged fewer than eight minutes on the floor in those games.
He may need to take on a bigger role this series. Athletically, he's the only player on Dallas's roster who is superior to Westbrook.
Beaubois's vertical (39") is three inches better than Westbrook's and his wingspan (6'10") is two inches longer. Plus, he was a half-second faster than Westbrook in the NBA combine's lane agility drill.
His length and athleticism could cause a lot of frustration for the Thunder point guard.
1: DeShawn Stevenson
The two best on-ball defenders on the Mavericks are Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson. Marion will be plenty busy with Durant—Stevenson should be the one to take Westbrook.
He's averaged a mere 13 minutes a game this postseason, but may need to be on the floor more in this series.
He's extremely competitive and has great defensive instincts. Those things could cause some problems for the Thunder point guard.
The Game Plan Against Westbrook
All five of the players on this slideshow will likely spend at least some time against Westbrook. Giving him all those different looks should help slow him down.
The biggest thing Dallas needs to do is keep Westbrook out of the situations he's best in.
If the Mavericks take care of the ball and limit their own turnovers, Westbrook won't have as many opportunities in the open court.
With the game slowed down, they can exploit Westbrook's biggest weakness--he tries to do way too much.
When he gets into that mode, he turns the ball over (more than anyone in the league) and takes a lot more shots than he should.
The Thunder had major problems in games when Westbrook shot the ball more times than Durant.
Oklahoma City's point guard may be the single biggest key to this series. If he shoots the ball 20 times a game and the Mavs guards keep him relatively contained in the open court—Dallas will win the series.