The sweet sixteen is here, and boy there are some juicy 1-on-1 match-ups. For those of you who missed the initial round of 64, click here, and check in on the next round of 32 here. Thank you to the makers of this tournament that is making quarantine a little easier, @ActionNetworkHQ. Now lets check in on where each region is at heading into the third round.
A brief reminder of the rules of this 1-on-1 tournament:
- 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.
Back to the 1-on-1 action!
The Kawhi Region
#1: Kawhi Leonard vs. #5: Luka Doncic
In the first match-up, we have Kawhi Leonard and Luka Doncic. Both players stand at 6’7″ and are both around 220 pounds, so the size advantage does not favor either player. But an advantage that is in play is Leonard’s defensive ability against Doncic. The two-time defensive player of the year (DPOY) may have his hands full with the young Dallas superstar. However, Luka’s defensive ability is still progressing, so Kawhi has the advantage defensively.
Another advantage that Leonard has is his big game ‘clutch’ factor. We may have not seen it from Luka yet, but just last year we saw that Kawhi is not afraid to hit the big shot on the offensive end then stick whoever the opposing team’s best player is. Leonard is also a two-time Finals MVP, signifying his ability to step up in crunch-time. With his defensive advantage and his crunch-time play, I see Kawhi winning the best match-up in the Sweet 16.
Winner: Kawhi Leonard
#3: Jayson Tatum vs. #2: Kevin Durant
Call it what it is, but Jayson Tatum has benefited from some severely undersized match-ups so far in this 1-on-1 tournament. In the round of 64, he faced off against the much smaller and less talented Fred Van Vleet. After he won that round, he moved on against Trae Young, who is far from a defensive stalwart. But now in the Sweet 16, he gets to face off against one of the best scorers in NBA history. For Tatum, it is the first round he does not start with the ball or have a size advantage.
Defensively, Tatum has progressed into a solid defender on a defensive-minded Celtics team. But as I mentioned, he is facing off against one of the game’s greatest scorers. Durant has two inches on Tatum height-wise, and KD’s wingspan is six inches longer than Tatum’s. The young Celtic might give Durant a little bit of a scare, but Durant should have minimal trouble getting a spot in the Elite 8.
Winner: Kevin Durant
The LeBron Region
#1: LeBron James vs. #5: Russell Westbrook
LeBron James is a better jump shooter than Russell Westbrook. Bron also has the size advantage over Russ. Russ may be quicker, but offensively I feel he will struggle against the bigger LeBron. He may draw a few fouls on his drives against LeBron. But, that would mean Westbrook gets the ball. Sure, Russ is a stout defender, but he is going against a player who has a foot in the GOAT argument. James should not have much trouble using his unique combination of shooting, size, and athleticism to move on to the Sweet 16 of this 1-on-1 tournament.
Winner: LeBron James
#3: Pascal Siakam vs. #2: Kyrie Irving
I have mentioned Kyrie’s 1-on-1 style of play throughout the tournament, and how it will benefit him. But in the Sweet 16, he faces off against a player in Pascal Siakam that will be able to keep up with Kyrie Irving. Irving may be a little quicker, but Siakam has the length to disrupt many of Irving’s shots. Offensively, Siakam has a size advantage and will be able to get the rim undeterred for the most part. With his defensive make-up and size advantage, I see ‘Spicy P’ winning in a close match-up.
Winner: Pascal Siakam
The Giannis Region
#1: Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. #5: Zion Williamson
Sure we have seen Zion Williamson rip the ball out Giannis’s hands and then dunk it through the earth’s crust, but over a 1-on-1 game, I find it hard to believe that Williamson will consistently be able to repeat that. Giannis has the height advantage, while Zion has a slight strength advantage. But where Zion will struggle is finding open shots, as Giannis’s long wingspan should make offense very difficult for the young Pelican. This game may be tough to watch, as both are paint-centric players, but I am riding with the MVP to the Elite 8.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
#3: Ben Simmons vs. #2: Anthony Davis
Throughout the breakdown of this 1-on-1 tournament, I have mentioned Ben Simmons’s ‘switch-ability’ on defense. He is a very versatile defender and has the strength and speed to keep up with ALMOST anybody. Key word: ALMOST. Anthony Davis is a different animal. He was shooting over 50% from the field before the season was suspended. Combine that with some All-NBA caliber defense, and that gives Ben Simmons trouble.
Simmons should be able to contain Davis’s offensive attack. But offensively for Simmons, he already struggles and now he is up against a candidate for DPOY. Where Davis has the advantage is scoring in general, and in a 1-on-1 tournament, scoring can be pretty important. The Brow moves on to the Elite 8, beating an elite defender in Simmons.
Winner: Anthony Davis
The Harden Region
#1: James Harden vs. #4: Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler is one of the best defensive wings in the NBA. But James Harden was averaging almost 35 points a game before the hiatus. I mentioned scoring playing an important role in a 1-on-1 tournament such as this, and Harden has the clear advantage in that aspect of the game. Over his career, Butler has racked four All-Defensive teams and had an argument for his fifth this year in Miami. But that does not discount Harden defensively. Over the years he has progressed into a formidable defender using his strength and quickness. The Beard can hold his own defensively, can score with the best of them, and will use his big bag of moves to get past Butler in the Sweet 16.
Winner: James Harden
#3: Paul George vs. #2: Joel Embiid
Embiid has the clear size advantage in this match-up. But as I mentioned with Simmons, George has elite versatility defensively as well. PG stands at 6’8″ with almost a seven foot wingspan, and will be able to use that to deter many of Embiid’s offensive attacks. Embiid may have four inches and almost 30 pounds on George, but PG has averaged almost a steal a game his entire career and should be able to cause a few turnovers against Joel.
Before suspension of the season, Paul George was shooting threes at 40% clip on eight attempts a game. Compared to Joel Embiid’s 35% on four threes a game, PG has the advantage from behind the arc. George will causes a few turnovers and deter a few of Embiid’s shots on defense. Offensively, George’s speed advantage will help him create space against Embiid, and pull is accurate trigger from behind the arc. Combine his shooting ability with his defense, and PG will advance after winning a close match-up against the Sixers’ big man.
Winner: Paul George
The Elite 8 of the NBA King of the Hill 1-on-1 Tournament is Set!
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