Simmons vs. Kyrie? Embiid vs. Antetokounmpo? KD vs. PG?
What is the most compelling 1-on-1 matchup the 2019 playoffs could treat us to?
There's a ton of juicy options, so we go around the world to bring you a variety of opinions. Our Global NBA.com staff weighs in with what they're itching to see.
Kyrie Irving vs. Ben Simmons
Benyam Kidane, NBA.com Australia
We didn't get to see it last season, so I want a re-do this time round: Ben Simmons vs Kyrie Irving. Putting my Australian bias aside, the biggest x-factor for both Boston and Philadelphia if they meet in the playoffs is how their respective point guards perform. The Celtics will go as far as Kyrie Irving takes them. He's the pulse of the team and will have the ball in his hands late, unleashing absurd, 'untucked Kyrie' shot-making down the stretch. While the Celtics roster is loaded with plenty of talent, the last thing the 76ers want to deal with is a locked-in Kyrie. Meanwhile, Simmons has had his struggles against the Celtics in the past, especially in last season's playoffs as they packed the paint, daring him to shoot. How he adapts and finds ways to score off the ball and at the free throw line, will go a long way to the 76ers offence overcoming the Celtics. While they won't necessarily spend huge stretches of the game guarding each other, the battle of the point guards would be must-see TV in the playoffs. From the contrasting styles, to their ability to set the tempo for the game and their teammates.....gimme 7 games of Kyrie vs Ben.
Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kevin Durant
Leandro Fernandez, NBA.com Argentina
The matchup of the unguardables who, at the same time, are really good in guarding similar players, specially in the playoffs. Giannis is an unstoppable force who is (probably) a 3-point shot away from being even better than the already fantastic player he is. KD is someone with literally, every weapon in his offensive arsenal, and he has proved in the last two seasons that when the playoffs come he activates a different mode that places him at the top of the league. Where should we sign to get a Warriors-Bucks matchup in the Finals?
Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond
Gilbert McGregor, NBA.com Canada
It might not reach seven games, but I need a series consisting of Andre Drummond and Joel Embiid battling on the inside. First things first: The two have history. The back-and-forth between Drummond and Embiid over the past few seasons would only intensify in the postseason, making this series well worth the price of admission. On top of that, each of these guys can flat out play. In a time where the big man is becoming more versatile than ever before, the two centres' differing styles would be something worth keeping an eye on. Drummond can bang on the inside with the best of them, averaging 17.4 points and a league-high 15.4 rebounds per game. The league's second-best rebounder? Embiid with 13.6 boards per contest; the Sixers All-Star centre is the epitome of the modern big man - in addition to his rebounding, he can put it on the floor, score out of the post and he knocks down at least one 3-pointer per game. Two of the East's top interior talents battling with playoff intensity? Sign me up.
Rudy Gobert vs. Nikola Jokic
Segio Rabinal-Vera, NBA.com Spain
The game during the NBA Playoffs is a different world. Tha pace is slower, defense prevails over offense and a bad start could mean the end of the season. The best match up you could find in the first round definitely is a Nuggets vs Jazz. No other team defends like the Jazz, with one of the best players in pick-and-roll situations being Rudy Gobert. The French player probably deserved to be in the All-Star Game for his defensive performance all season, and the playoffs is the perfect place to claim himself as the best defensive center in the league over Jokic and Plumlee. In front of him, Nikola Jokic. The Joker has led the Nuggets to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013, as one of the MVP candidates in this season. The serb has struggled in the latter part of the season to maintain the team's incredible level early on, but his IQ and his court vision are perfectly designed for playoffs basketball. The Nuggets have a lot of lose in this first round. The franchise's best season in the last five years needs something more than a simple win. We've been waiting too long for a seven-games series between Denver and Utah. This would be a can't-miss.
Al Horford vs. Joel Embiid
Carlos Herrera-Luyando, NBA.com Mexico
It is so exciting to see one of the best pivots of the league in Embiid (probably the best) facing Al Horford. Al is a great defender and despite Embiid's mobility on the floor, Horford can guard him everywhere on the court. The top offensive option for the 76ers is vital for the team's success, but Al has the ability to stop him. If a 76ers - Celtics series comes to be in playoffs, it would be nice to see the new generation of big men facing off in an epic series.
Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond
Vinayak Iyer, NBA.com India
I also have to go with Embiid and Drummond. Detroit has gotten hot, led by its Drummond having his most effective scoring season, which has created a first-round collision course with Philly. Embiid should find that opportunity to be very entertaining. It's hard to tell what he's enjoyed trading more in the recently revved-up rivalry, brash barbs or body blows. Embiid likes to think he owns the matchup, but here comes Drummond's big chance to help his team shut him up for a while, even if he can't shut him down.
Russell Westbrook vs. Damian Lillard
Kyle Irving, NBA.com Global
Give me Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard. The records of the Blazers and Thunder make this more than wishful thinking - it's in the realm of possibility. The Thunder have swept the season series against the Blazers so they'll be out for revenge. During one of the matchups in January, Westbrook and Lillard traded words as Westbrook told him he's been 'busting that a** for years.' Lillard is not one to back down from a challenge and has even mentioned he raises his game to another level when he plays against Westbrook. As two of my favorite players and two of the most talented guards in the league today, give me a first round matchup of these gamers going back and forth, letting each other hear it on every single possession.
Damian Lillard vs Derrick White
Pablo Schatzky, NBA.com Argentina
Maybe my call isn't the most sellable 1-on-1 matchup nor is it going to become an instant classic. But as a basketball fan, a pure game fan, I'm dying to see how Derrick White, the San Antonio Spurs point guard, could perform against a veteran monster like Damian Lillard, who already has some great playoffs battles on his back. If things continue to go this way for the Spurs and they end up becoming the fifth seed, they would become a true pain for everyone who dreamt of climbing through the playoff mountain without any trouble. I mean, the West doesn't have a weak team in those eight spots and everyone can make a case for a team being better than another. But right now, Popovich has lead his team to have the best active win streak and White is playing at an insane level: not only stats-wise, but his confidence is top notch. So, with his defensive skills being polished in this last 12 games, I'd love to see him go against one of the greatest point guards of this generation - Damian Lillard. This would make the basketball world reconsider if White has enough potential to become a great leader or if this was just a mirage as we wait for Dejounte Murray's rehab.
Jusuf Nurkic vs. Nikola Jokic
Alex Novick, NBA.com Global
This one won't be a headliner, but I'd love to see Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic grind it out for a full series. These two beefy, tough, highly-skilled, Eastern European centers were too redundant to mesh in Denver, which ultimately led to Nurkic being shipped off to the Blazers (along with a first-round pick!) in exchange for Mason Plumlee. Nurkic has put together his best season - one of only 5 guys to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, a block and a steal this year - and he could be the factor that finally pushes this Blazers group to the Conference Finals. You know he'd love a shot at Jokic, the guy he was rendered expendable for, and a guy who will likely be No. 3 in MVP voting. Jokic is looking to prove his gaudy numbers translate to playoff success as he makes his postseason debut. The stars are aligning for a potential second round matchup between these fiery bigs, and there's sure to be some sparks if we get the privilege.
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