Just as in the Eastern Conference, where the superstar-laden Miami Heat faced a team of castoffs in the Conference Final, the Western Conference Final of SB Nation's NBA 3 on 3 Tournament features the superstars of the Los Angeles Lakers versus another team of leftovers. The winner of this one will face the Heat in the Final.
The Lakers team has three MVP trophies, three NBA Defensive Player of the Year trophies, and 28 All Star Game selections between them. Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard seem like an unbeatable threesome featuring a definitive point guard, a definitive scoring wing and a definitive center. They've advanced to the West Final by defeating Golden State, Phoenix and Dallas and they've been heavily favored in each of those matchups.
The West Leftovers have something to prove here. James Harden, Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph have plenty of awards hardware themselves, and they can't be happy with the (fictitious) snubs of being left off their original rosters. Gasol in particular, a player just as important to the Lakers last two championships as Bryant, must relish the idea of playing against Bryant and the Laker-come-latelies rather than playing with Bryant -- at least this way he figures to see the ball from time to time. The real question of this matchup boils down to who defends Bryant and who does he defend. But if Gasol and Bryant end up going at each other, watch out.
Let's see what our panel of experts has to say.
- Tom Ziller, SB Nation NBA, Sactown Royalty -- Lakers win 15 of 20
- Andrew Sharp, SB Nation NBA -- Lakers win 15 of 20
- Steve Perrin, SB Nation NBA, Clips Nation -- Lakers win 13 of 20
- J.A. Sherman, Welcome to Loud City -- Leftovers win 12 of 20
- Adam Francis, Raptors HQ -- Leftovers win 11 of 20
- Probability to win any given game -- Lakers 60 percent; Leftovers 40 percent
- Probability to win series - Lakers 64.8 percent; Leftovers 35.2 percent
I have a weird internally polarizing issue with regards to these Lakers, and it's manifesting in the 3 on 3 tournament. The Kings fan in me wants to pour gasoline onto the team and shove it into Kilauea. But the basketball fan in me honestly cannot wait to see Nash and Howard together. My insides might destroy themselves. -- Ziller
Z-BO and Pau are not going down easy! Sure, they only win five games in this projection, but that's more than just about any other team has won against L.A. in this tournament. Harden could give them problems, and I'm counting on Dwight spacing out for at least a handful of games here. But yes, the Lakers still advance, and now we're all looking ahead to the showdown with Miami. -- Sharp
You know Gasol thought he should have gotten a lot more touches last season, and you know he knows that he's getting even fewer this season. Playing against the 'bigger' three Lakers would be a huge motivator for him. People forget how good he is because he's been so willing to blend in L.A. He won't blend in this one. He makes it close, but the Leftovers can't stop either Bryant or Howard so the Lakers still win. -- Perrin
This is such an enticing matchup because it might prove once and for all if Gasol is better off without Kobe. I could see Gasol coming out super-aggressive against the Laker squad, running high pick and rolls with both Randolph and Harden, forcing LA to switch Howard onto him. Big mistake. That would free up Randolph to batter Kobe down low, and that has to be a formula that Z-Bo dreams of fortnightly. The Lakers would of course be tough to stop on offense, but in the end I think we can all reasonably rely on Kobe to force too many perimeters and shoot his squad right out of the game. Leftovers advance! -- Sherman
This one goes down to the wire. I think the West Leftovers are best suited to knock the Lake Show off by forcing Dwight to guard their stretch 4's on the perimeter, but Kobe won't let his club go easily into the night. In the end though, the Randolph/Gasol combo is too much size for LA to overcome. -- Francis
The Bottom Line
Wow, two of the panelists are picking the Leftovers, without even resorting to the Hack-a-Dwight (or without referencing it at any rate). That's a good Leftover team no doubt, but the Lakers still come out of this process with a 60 percent chance of winning any single game. That's much tighter than any other matchup they've faced in this tournament, and we've certainly seen bigger upsets.
It's all up to the dice now. The Lakers need rolls of 60 or lower to win while the Leftovers will be looking for 61 or higher.
What do you think?
The results will be posted at 5 p.m. ET.
For a complete look at the SB Nation 3 on 3 Tournament, check back with this StoryStream.