With the NBA lockout still ongoing despite marathon talks over the past couple days, pro ballers remain left to their own devices to find good competition. A number of players, most notably Deron Williams, have taken their talents overseas, and Sports Illustrated recently reported that Brandon Jennings has been reaching out for pickup games via Twitter. Nolan Smith has decided to use his own Twitter to find a game. Or at least announce one. The Portland Trailblazer's first-round draft pick Tweeted Monday: “Duke and Carolina fans..#staytuned but a game is in the process of being formed now, with all your favorite players from past and present!"
What would the ultimate Duke vs. Carolina match-up look like? And I'm not talking about finding the “all-time” teams of each school — let's leave that to the historians. I’m more interested in the “now” of Smith’s Tweet: who are the best players to suit up tomorrow in a game for bragging rights in college’s greatest rivalry. Let’s take a look at the positional match-ups for Duke and North Carolina — plus a few other spots in this showdown — and hope that such a fantasy game comes to fruition very soon.
Matchup: Raymond Felton vs. Kyrie Irving Felton comes in with more experience over Irving, having played six seasons in The Association. Showing no signs of slowing up, the former Tar Heel enjoyed his best season last year (15.5 ppg, 8.3 apg), despite playing parts of it on three different teams. Irving’s time at Duke was cut short due to a foot injury just over a month into the season. While fans didn’t see his full arsenal of talent, it was clear he was the real deal — the Cavs took him first overall in this year's draft. Good news for Duke in this matchup is that he’ll finally be healthy, which should give Felton fits containing him.
Matchup: Vince Carter vs. JJ Redick The man who "wow"ed the world with the best dunk contest display of all time is no longer the freak athlete he once was, but he still lands the starting off-guard spot for the UNC team. The 34-year-old vet managed a respectable 14 points per game last season while spending time with Phoenix and Orlando, but it's clear he's lost a step... or two. Maybe a game with as much buzz as this one would be just what he needs to find the electricity he once had. Wouldn't be a Duke team without a slow white shooting guard with deadly 3-point range and an allergy to good man defense in the lineup. Enter JJ Redick. Since this might be best matchup for Duke, follow the simple game plan of telling Redick that he's not playing with Dwight, Jameer, and Co. and to fire away at will. Side note: Love the fact that we have former NBA teammates guarding each other at shooting guard. Can't wait to see them drop any NBA allegiances they once had the minute they step on the court as rivals.
Matchup: Marvin Williams vs. Shane Battier If you're picking the best starting lineup for a pickup game of Duke players for a park game against UNC, you probably give Mike Dunleavy the nod here, but since it's a traditional game you have to go with a "do-everything" leader. Shane Battier will be able to defend anyone on the court, share the ball, and draw charges, and also won't complain when you sub him out for Dunleavy or Kyle Singler because he knows they're better offensive threats. A true pro, and one of the best Duke team leaders of all time, Battier will do everything he can in this game to beat his hated rival. Marvin Williams is a reliable defender who can muscle up inside and outside, and would give the Tar Heels a significant advantage on the boards. While his 11.7 ppg in six pro seasons with Atlanta are very respectable, expect defensive specialist Battier to limit his touches. Side note: How the hell did Atlanta draft Marvin Williams over Chris Paul and Deron Williams in '05?
Matchup: Tyler Hansbrough vs. Luol Deng Hansbrough gets the nod over current Tar Heel Harrison Barnes. “Psycho T” always did well proving people wrong, but he’s really got his work cut out for him against the ultra-athletic Deng. The Chicago star averaged 17.4 ppg last year and shot a respectable 34.5% from three-point range, making him even more difficult to guard. One thing Hansbrough has on his side is the 30-pound advantage (250 vs. 220) over Deng. Expect him to do what he does best: draw fouls in the post.
Matchup: Brendan Haywood vs. Carlos Boozer Boozer averaged 17.1 ppg and 9.6 rpg last season as the Bulls' main force in the post. He should post up all game and earn his $75 million contract. Haywood’s size (7 feet) is the biggest advantage for UNC in this matchup. If he could just focus on getting offensive rebounds, Carolina would be in much better shape.
DUKE Guards: Austin Rivers, Nolan Smith, Gerald Henderson, Chris Duhon Big Men: Mike Dunleavy, Kyle Singler, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, Shelden Williams Just Missed the Cut: Jon Scheyer, Dahntay Jones, Brian Zoubek
UNC Guards: Ty Lawson, Dexter Strickland, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green Big Men: Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, Antawn Jamison, Deon Thompson, Ed Davis Just Missed the Cut: Rashad McCants, Jawad Williams, Brandon Wright, Sean May Duke clearly has more depth. So much so that even though Nolan Smith is the guy hyping the game, he’ll be lucky to get much playing time. Their weakest position, as it seemingly always has been, is at center, where Brand is aged, and Shelden Williams is offensively challenged. With Rivers, Singler, Smith, Henderson, and Dunleavy rotating in on the perimeter, however, the big man won’t have to do much scoring. North Carolina’s best hope is to strike lightning in a bottle with its youth. Harrison Barnes, Dexter Strickland, and Tyler Zeller’s young legs need to spark an under-manned team. Expect 6'9" Deon Thompson to get a lot of playing time. The big man scored 14 ppg last season while playing with Ikaros BC in Greece.
Matchup: Michael Jordan and Rasheed Wallace vs. Grant Hill and Jay Williams Let's be clear, Rasheed Wallace has done NOTHING to deserve this honor, but we just want to gave him a chance to get yet another technical foul. As far as Hill, Williams and Jordan, the fact that they're honorary captains doesn't necessarily make them ineligible to compete. So here's hoping they rip off the warm-ups at some point to sub in and provide a spark for their respective squads.
Matchup: Roy Williams vs. Mike Krzyzewski There is one name that will forever be associated with Duke's program, and if Krzyzewski wasn't so damn hard to spell they would have already re-named the town of Durham after him. No disrespect to Roy Williams, but the shame of this game is that, because of health issues, Dean Smith doesn't get to use the clipboard one more time. Here's hoping he gets a nice seat in the stands.
Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas Only appropriate to have Bilas, maybe the best in the game, and Davis, who provides spot-on analysis, call this game. Since they're both color commentators, we'll add ESPN stalwart Sean McDonough as the play-by-play guy. He'll keep Bilas and Davis from going too nuts on each other, and as Syracuse grad will be a solid representative for the newest member of the ACC.
Disclosure: I'm a Duke fan, and hate North Carolina slightly less than Casey Anthony and spinach. But I will be as unbiased in my prediction as possible, even though I know the Carolina fans probably just wrote me and the Blue Devils off. I don't think Vegas would, however: They'd slot Duke in as the favorite. Considering how tight these games usually are, I'd expect Duke at -3.5 but anything higher than -5.5 would shock me. Although these games are always close, I see big advantages for Duke. Their NBA talent may be at the highest it's ever been. Redick, Boozer, Battier, Maggette, Dunleavy, Brand, and Deng have been consistently successful for a number of seasons in the Association. Meanwhile, Smith, Henderson, Singler, and Irving look ready to continue in their footsteps of successful NBA products. That wasn't always the case for Duke players. (Just ask the GMs who drafted William Avery and Trajon Langdon.) On the flipside, UNC has never had a lower point as far as pro talent. Which is very odd considering their recent titles in '05 and '09. The biggest case of a decline in talent can be found at off-guard where a washed-up Vince Carter, Danny Green (an NBA role player at best), and an undersized Ty Lawson are the best options. Not exactly the glory days they once had. The bright spot for the Tar Heels is that they have Hansbrough down low; he seemed to always find a way to give the Cameron Crazies fits. Another thing that may favor the squad from Chapel Hill is Felton's experience over the untested Irving and Rivers. I think depth plays a big part in this game, and strongly favors Duke, even though Carolina's young guns — Zeller, Barnes, and Strickland — could provide a fresh spark off the bench to keep it close. These games are almost always nail biters, but I feel like Duke has too many weapons right now. The Blue Devils are able to pound inside to Boozer and Brand, or fire away from the outside with their three-point specialists, while Carolina has no true scorer to take over the game. That's something that's nearly impossible to overcome. Prediction: Duke 96, UNC 87.
Copyright © 2008-2013 BroBible. All rights reserved.