With the NBA shut down for the foreseeable future, basketball junkies could use a fix. If the league isn’t going to return to full blown competition, maybe there is a chance they could run out a series of promotional one-on-one games to help wet the appetite of thirsty fans.
As chronicled in NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh latest piece, power agent Leonard Armato attempted to pull this off in 1995 with Hakeem Olajuwon vs. Shaquille O'Neal as his headliners with an undercard that included Joe Smith, Kevin Garnett, Nick Van Axel and Kenny Anderson before an injury derailed the event. Maybe it's an idea that needs more exploring now.
Who wouldn’t pay to see LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard go toe-to-toe? How about Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis in a battle of former Wildcats? Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving throwing up 35-footers? Sign me up.
For Kings fans, there are a couple of matchups that would be fun to watch. If Klay Thompson was 100-percent healthy, he and Buddy Hield would compare well in a battle of marksmen. A Montrezl Harrell vs. Richaun Holmes low post brawl would be crazy physical and likely lead to fisticuffs.
Perhaps the most intriguing of all mano-y-mano matchups would involve De’Aaron Fox vs. Russell Westbrook, who Fox says was his favorite player growing up, not his childhood hero.
Hero??? No 😂😂😂 favorite player? Yes https://t.co/2A1JlS36vD— De'Aaron Fox (@swipathefox) May 15, 2020
Would Westbrook be able to stay in front of Fox and his lightning-quick first step? Could Fox slow the powerful bull rush of one of the most physical guards in the league?
Both listed at 6-foot-3, Westbrook would come in with a 15-pound weight advantage and an inch and a half in wingspan. Fox is nine years younger, but Westbrook has all the hardware, including nine All-Star appearances and one league MVP award.
Westbrook shoots with his right hand, but does most other things better with his left. Fox is a natural lefty.
A deep dive into the two players shows remarkable similarities. In his third NBA season, Fox was posting 20.4 points, 6.8 assists, four rebounds and 1.4 steals in 31.7 minutes per game. When the hiatus began, Fox was shooting 47.5 percent from the field, 30.7 percent from 3-point range and getting to the line 6.8 times per game.
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In Westbrook’s third year, he posted 21.9 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 34.7 minutes. Westbrook shot 44.2 percent from the field, 33 percent from 3-point range and 7.7 free throw attempts.
When these numbers are compared through the lens of per 36 minutes they are almost identical.
There is no way to play third-year Fox versus third-year Westbrook, but at the time at the shutdown, the difference between the two point guards wasn’t that great when adjusted for per 36.
Westbrook averaged more points per game, but Fox shot better from the perimeter, has the ability to agitate on the defensive end and is a far superior shot blocker.
Fox is coming on strong, but there is a good chance that Westbrook’s experience would win out in a one-on-one setting. Given another year, the outcome might be different, especially if Fox is able to add to his 185-pound frame.
Either way, this would be a marquee matchup that plenty of NBA fans would pay good money to watch. The up and comer from Sacramento versus the veteran superstar from Houston.