Miami's vertically-challenged frontcourt gets its tallest test of the young season tonight as it hosts Philadelphia. You've got your Samuel Dalembert, a wiry 6-11 leaper. You've got your Elton Brand, a conventional 6-9 in height but about 8 feet wide and with an enormous Easter Island head. And don't forget your Thaddeus Young, a good-sized three at 6-8. Off the bench, there's grizzled vets Reggie Evans and Theo Ratliff and rookie bruiser Marreese Speights. It's a stiff test for The Three Forwards of South Beach.
Matchup of the night: Mario Chalmers vs. Andre Miller.
I don't even care if Chalmers gets worked over tonight, as long as he brings a spiral notebook and extra pens. School's in for the rookie against Miller, a throwback pure point guard in an era of combos and converts. Miller isn't one to hang up big numbers on a greenhorn, so this may not look like a mismatch, but that's part of his genius: Miller can manage a game and lead his team to victory through a mundane but ruthlessly effective regimen of simple good decisions and fundamental plays. I hope Chalmers holds his own, of course, but more than that, I hope he learns something.
Opposing player I'm scared of: Thaddeus Young.
I'm going to go ahead and toss out Young as an early nomination for Most Improved Player. He seems to have added an outside shot to his repertoire, and he's in an ideal situation to succeed this year alongside an above-average perimeter scorer in Andre Iguodola, a low-post anchor in Elton Brand and a point guard that knows what's what in Andre Miller. As for tonight, it's unclear how much the new face mask will hinder Shawn Marion as he attempts to slow down the springy youngster. It'd be a tough matchup anyway, but the new headgear won't help Marion's efforts.