Another week of quarantine goes by, and another interesting sports discussion crosses my disinfected desk. The NBA King of the Hill 1-on-1 Tournament that @ActionNetworkHQ brought to us basketball fans on twitter.
For those of you who have yet to see the bracket, it is split up into four different 16 player regions. Each region is named by its respective one seed. The regions look as followed.
Now before we get started, I want to preface this with some rules.
- The bracket will play similar to March Madness, meaning each round is single game elimination.
- Each game will be played to 11 by one’s and two’s.
- The better seed starts with the ball
- Make it take it.
That last rule will be pretty important too, as some of the players in this tournament could catch fire and move on to the next round.
Without further ado,
The Kawhi Region
#1: Kawhi Leonard vs. #16: Jonathan Isaac
I do not think this game is even close. The ceiling for Jonathan Isaac is a player like Kawhi Leonard. Offensively, Isaac’s game is not going to get it done. Isaac took some steps forward this year prior to his injury. But Jonathan Isaac will not be pulling any UMBC miracles here.
Winner: Kawhi Leonard
#8: Tobias Harris vs. #9: Ja Morant
Tobias Harris may have the size advantage. But Ja Morant’s play style should excel in a 1-on-1 setting. His jump shot is still developing, but with his explosiveness and ability to get to the rim, Harris will not be able to keep up with him. The Sixers wing may be able to back down the young guard, but his offensive game is too inconsistent for me to give him the advantage over Ja.
Winner: Ja Morant
#5: Luka Doncic vs. #12: Will Barton
Much like Morant, Doncic’s game fits in a 1-on-1 game. Luka has already got his go-to move with the step back. He also has a few inches and almost 40 pounds on Barton. If his jump shooting gets cold, Luka can lean on his post play against the smaller Barton. Barton has proved to be a formidable offensive option on the three seeded Denver Nuggets, but he will not be able to get passed Luka.
Winner: Luka Doncic
#4: Damian Lillard vs. #13 D’Angelo Russell
This is one of my favorite match-ups in the Kawhi region. Two guards that can play iso-ball if need be, who both can get hot from behind the arc. Two players that have lead their teams at the point guard position. What Russell lacks is the big play ability that I have seen Lillard show in the postseason, and for that reason I find it hard to give D’Lo the advantage over Dame.
Winner: Damian Lillard
#6: Jaylen Brown vs. #11: Trae Young
The ceiling is the roof for both of these players. Jaylen Brown has shown progress throughout his career, and I can see his game progressing into one similar to Joe Dumars of the late 80’s Pistons. Trae Young on the other-hand, has the potential of becoming one of the greatest shooters of all time. With the potential of both, this matchup is very intriguing. Brown has the size and defensive advantage, but I cannot rule out Trae’s ability to catch fire from behind the arc. Because of Young’s in-the-gym range, I have to lean the former Sooner to win this matchup.
Winner: Trae Young
#3: Jayson Tatum vs. #14: Fred VanVleet
Sure VanVleet caught the world by surprise in last year’s NBA playoffs, but I cannot imagine a world where he beats Jayson Tatum in a 1-on-1 matchup. Tatum has the size, strength, and shooting ability to dominate this matchup.
Winner: Jayson Tatum
#7: Donovan Mitchell vs. #10: Klay Thompson
The fact that Donovan Mitchell is ranked higher than Klay Thompson still befuddles me. Klay shoots better, plays better defense, and is stronger than Mitchell. All of which are important skills in a 1-on-1 game. But where Klay lacks is where Mitchell excels, and that is in ball handling and the ability to create his own shot. But even with Mitchell’s ability to get his own shot, I have watched Klay score 37 points in a quarter. Klay scored 60 points in three quarters. I watched Klay hit 14 three pointers in a game. Get where I am going with this? I believe Klay is the better scorer even in the absence of ball handling. Pair that scoring ability with his elite defense, and you get a first round victory.
Winner: Klay Thompson
#2: Kevin Durant vs. #15: Eric Gordon
Look, Eric Gordon is a fine NBA player. This season he averaged 14.5 points per game. He even had a game where he scored 50 points. But beating Kevin Durant, in a 1-on-1 game? Durant is arguably one of the best scorers of all time. Not a chance Gordon sniffs a victory.
Winner: Kevin Durant
The LeBron Region
#1: LeBron James vs. #16: Kelly Oubre
LeBron is a top five NBA player of all time. Kelly Oubre is lucky to be considered as a top five small forward in the western conference. Need I say more?
Winner: LeBron James
#8: Zach LaVine vs. #9: Kemba Walker
Few players have the combination of three point shooting ability and athleticism that Lavine possesses. Sure Kemba has nice handles and is pretty quick. But I think LaVine’s ability to score from anywhere on the court will help propel him into the second round.
Winner: Zach LaVine
#5: Russell Westbrook vs. #12: Gordon Hayward
Even with a lackluster three point shot, Westbrook’s style of play make him a candidate to see a nice run in this tournament. His extreme athleticism and ability to get to the rim would give Hayward trouble defensively. Westbrook’s will to win and aggressive style of the play should give Russ the advantage in this first round matchup.
Winner: Russell Westbrook
#4: Bradley Beal vs. #13: Buddy Hield
This is one of the more underrated match-ups in the first round. Both Hield and Beal have an uncanny ability to score. Coming out of Oklahoma, Buddy Hield was a highly touted wing and is still developing into a solid second option for the Kings. But that will not be enough to get by Bradley Beal. Beal is averaging over 30 points a game this year, and is one of the game’s best scorers right now.
Winner: Bradley Beal
#6: Demar Derozan vs. #11: Kristaps Porzingis
The lack of a three point shot really hinders Derozan here. Because of this absence, Porzingis can use his wingspan and defend the paint and Derozan’s patented mid-range jumpers. Offensively, Porzingis has the size advantage and shoots better behind the arc. In a 1-on-1 setting, Porzingis will be tough to beat as he is one of the better 3-and-D big men currently in the NBA.
Winner: Kristaps Porzingis
#3: Pascal Siakam vs. #14: Kyle Lowry
In the battle of the Raptors, Siakam has to have the upper hand here. Siakam has the size advantage but is also quick enough to keep up with Lowry. Lowry will struggle to handle Siakam versatile attack. Siakam should have no trouble keeping Lowry’s offensive attack under wraps. Siakam has the length and speed to lock up almost anybody in the NBA. So defending Kyle Lowry should be no problem for the young Raptor.
Winner: Pascal Siakam
#7: Jrue Holiday vs. #10: T.J.Warren
Arguably the worst match-up of the entire first round is right here. Even though neither are offensive stalwarts, I have to give the advantage to Holiday. He is the better ball handler, and can create his own shot better than Warren. Warren has the size advantage on Holiday, but Holiday’s quick hands should help him contain Warren’s offensive attack.
Winner: Jrue Holiday
#2: Kyrie Irving vs. #15: Domantas Sabonis
He may not be the favorite to win it, but Kyrie Irving’s iso-heavy style of play makes him one of the more better suited players for this 1-on-1 tournament. Irving will be the player who will be most fun to watch as he is one of the best ball handlers in the NBA. No slight to Sabonis, but as a big man, I am not sure how he will be able to keep up with Kyrie Irving. Advantage: Uncle Drew.
Winner: Kyrie Irving
The Giannis Region
#1: Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. #16: Aaron Gordon
The 1 vs. 16 matchup features last year’s MVP versus a guy who has never averaged over 20 points a game in his career. Giannis is a freak of nature, no better way to explain it. Almost 7 foot tall with his ability is rare, and there is no chance that Aaron Gordon will be able to stop it.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
#8: Caris LeVert vs. #9: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Out of all the 8-9 matchups, this is the most intriguing to me. Two young wings that are versatile on both sides of the ball facing off 1-on-1. These two are around the same size, and both have similar strengths and weaknesses. But what separates SGA from LeVert to me is his defense. SGA has flashed elite ability to defend wings. LeVert has just been average. LeVert does have the ability to score points in bunches, but if SGA shows his defensive ability, I think he wins in a close battle.
Winner: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
#5: Zion Williamson vs. #12: Derrick Rose
Zion is simply too much to handle for the smaller Rose. Now if this is prime Derrick Rose, it may be a different story. But since it is current Rose, the first pick of the 2019 NBA draft should have no problem using his strength and dominating Derrick Rose.
Winner: Zion Williamson
#4: Karl-Anthony Towns vs. #13: Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony has been prone to play hero-ball throughout his whole career and I would not expect much change here. Old or young, Anthony’s style of play would fit hand-in-glove in a 1-on-1 tournament. Towns may have more skill than Melo, but I see an upset here with Melo winning a tight game.
Winner: Carmelo Anthony
#6: Brandon Ingram vs. #11: Jamal Murray
Ingram has the length and size advantage on Murray. Both are decent three point shooters and both are developing on defense. But what sets Ingram apart is his ability to get his own shot. Murray plays off the ball in Denver, where as Ingram is a primary option for the Pelicans. Ingram uses his size in this match-up and should win with ease.
Winner: Brandon Ingram
#3: Ben Simmons vs. #14: Danilo Gallinari
Even in the absence of a shot, Ben Simmons has the ability to go deep into this 1-on-1 tournament. Simmons is one of the few players in the NBA that can defend every position at a high caliber. He is versatile offensively as well, as he can use his size against smaller guards, and use his quickness against bigger forwards and centers. Gallinari could get hot from behind the arc, as that is his game. But with Simmons defending him, I see troubled times for Gallo.
Winner: Ben Simmons
#7: Chris Paul vs. #10: Khris Middleton
Chris Paul in his prime would eat in a 1-on-1 setting. But he is not in his prime, and he is facing off against one of the more underrated stars in the NBA today. Middleton not only has the size advantage in this matchup, but also the shooting advantage. Middleton is averaging over 20 points a game while shooting a 50/40/90 clip. Paul may be quicker, but I see Middleton using his size and scoring advantage to win a close game.
Winner: Khris Middleton
#2: Anthony Davis vs. #15: LaMarcus Aldridge
AD is better at every facet of the game than Aldridge, and that is no slight to Aldridge. Aldridge is a solid player, and has an uncanny ability of scoring in and around the paint. But he is going 1-on-1 with Anthony Davis, a player who has an argument for defensive player of the year and the MVP. So sorry Aldridge, but Davis is winning this match-up.
Winner: Anthony Davis
The Harden Region
#1: James Harden vs. #16: Blake Griffin
Much like Derrick Rose, if Blake Griffin was in his prime this match-up would be a different story. But he is not in his prime, and is tasked with facing off against a guy who is built for 1-on-1 play. Harden already does his best impression of ‘hero-ball’ in Houston. He is averaging 34.4 points a game and is probably the game’s best scorer as of right now. Griffin may have the size over Harden, but he might not get the ball the entire game.
Winner: James Harden
#8: C.J. McCollum vs. #9: Spencer Dinwiddie
Cue the Spiderman meme where they point at eachother because McCollum and Dinwiddie both play the same style. McCollum only averages two more points a game in comparison to Dinwiddie. Both are above average ball handlers and average defenders. All that said, there is one difference that determines the outcome of this game. Dinwiddie has had to serve as a primary offensive option in Brooklyn and has not played next to a All-NBA guard throughout his entire career. McCollum has been a beneficiary playing second fiddle to Damian Lillard, where as Dinwiddie has not had that luxury.
Winner: Spencer Dinwiddie
#5: Stephen Curry vs. #12: Lou Williams
This 1-on-1 matchup may be the most entertaining to watch in the entire first round. Both players have elite handles and shot creating ability. Curry and Lou Will both have the ability to shoot from anywhere as well. If both players come in hot, they might have to replace the nets before the next match-up. But, if they are not hot, and the threes are not falling, Curry has the advantage. He is the better defender and has shown he can get to the rim.
Winner: Stephen Curry
#4: Jimmy Butler vs. #13: Jaren Jackson Jr.
I think Jaren Jackson Jr. will progress into a formidable second option for the Grizzlies playing next to Ja Morant. But putting him into a 1-on-1 situation is not his style of play. Where as Jimmy Butler has shown time and time again he is not afraid of going 1-on-1 in the big moments.
Winner: Jimmy Butler
#6: Devin Booker vs. #11: Nikola Jokic
Jokic has an incredible size advantage in this first round match-up. But he does not get the ball first, and that is important considering that his counterpart can heat up quick. Booker is quicker than Jokic, and should have no problem picking the Joker apart on defense. The only scenario I see Jokic moving on is him getting a stop early, and using his size advantage to back down Booker for eleven straight baskets. But that is unlikely.
Winner: Devin Booker
#3: Paul George vs. #14: Nikola Vucevic
Paul George has the makeup to go deep into this tournament. With his combination of length, speed, and offensive ability he should have no trouble handling the bigger Vucevic. PG is much quicker, and the size advantage should not be too much handle for the Clippers wing.
Winner: Paul George
#7: De’Aaron Fox vs. #10: Bam Adebayo
Fox may have the quickness on Adebayo, but Adebayo has the size advantage over Fox. Adebayo can shut down Fox in the paint and force him to shoot, and that plays into Bam’s hands. Fox is only shooting 30.7% from three this year, so he will have to attack one of the better defensive big men in the paint. Offensively, Bam will be able to back him down and use his post game to score. This game certainly will not be the sexiest to watch, as it will be paint centric and defensively minded, two areas where Adebayo have the advantage.
Winner: Bam Adebayo
#2: Joel Embiid vs. #15: Eric Bledsoe
Joel Embiid might win this game 11-0. The fact that he gets the ball first makes it easy for Embiid to use his size advantage immediately and back down Bledsoe. I mean Embiid is almost a foot taller than Bledsoe, so getting to the rim should not be a problem for Joel.
Winner: Joel Embiid
The Round of 32 is Set!
This is just the start of a new series where I will be breaking down the remainder of the tournament. If you want to jump in on this discussion, hit us up on twitter @craines38 or tweet at @OTH_Basketball to jump in on this tournament talk!
Stay safe out there folks!
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