NBA Playoffs Round 2 Preview: Cavaliers vs. ???

With a win tonight, the Atlanta Hawks will book themselves a Conference Semi-Finals showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Dwayne Wade and the Heat are hoping to extend the series and force the Hawks to defend their homecourt in a possible Game 7. With the James Gang currently on “spring break” after sweeping what’s left of the Detroit Pistons we got to thinking about which opponent (ATL, MIA) would give the Cavs more trouble as they continue their rampage. Here is what the matchups should look like for both scenarios and who we think has the edge at each position:

Point Guard: Mo Williams vs. Mike Bibby vs. Mario Chalmers
O'Ryan: This is a tough one to call. I’m going to toss Chalmers out of the argument because he isn’t Miami’s primary ball handler - that would be DeeWayne Wade. That leaves Williams and Bibby. Both are deadly three point shooters and can make a huge impact by controlling the tempo. I’m going to be a homer and give the nod to Mo Williams but only because he has the luxury of playing with a superstar and Bibby does not. The attention that LeBron receives from the defense allows Mo Williams to play off the ball and get any shot that he wants at anytime. Bibby can thrive on the attention paid to Joe Johnson but nobody is losing sleep over having to double team Joe Johnson so far. Williams also gets to take advantage of LeBron’s pinpoint passing.

Jamin: I will agree with Chalmers not being a big factor in these games but I’m not willing to throw him out of the argument. Can he hang with Bibby or The Mo “Flo”? Not a chance, but he can make a small splash. Lets not forget he got the Cavs for 21 in the only game the Heat beat them in the regular season. As for Mo and Bibby, give me Mo any day of the week. I like Bibby’s game but when it comes down to it, Mo has a much better shot. So who would give the Cavs more trouble here? Atlanta.

Shooting Guard: Delonte West vs. Flip Murray vs. Dwayne Wade

O’Ryan: This isn’t even close. Dwayne Wade vs. two quality role players! I love Delonte West’s game and I wouldn’t trade him for Flip Murray even though Flip played a big role for the Cavs a few years back with his outside shooting and defense so the real battle here is for second place. We all know what Dwayne Wade can do. The problem for Miami is that they are in trouble because Wade looks like he’s battling injuries right now and that’s not good news in South Beach. I will go ahead and give second place to Delonte West because the Cavs just weren’t the same team when he was out with a broken wrist. He simply provides more value to Cleveland than Murray does to Atlanta because he can switch off with Mo Williams and run the point.

Jamin: D-Wade is a superstar. He is not even in the same class as Delonte or Flip, so I will leave him out of this. Delonte has stepped his game up a lot since last year. His shooting is much better but it’s his defense that has really impressed. Flip is a role player and does his job well but no way does he worry me or any other team. Who gives the Cavs more trouble? Miami.

Small Forward: LeBron James vs. Joe Johnson vs. James Jones

O’Ryan: Another laugher! Joe Johnson is an All-Star caliber player but he’s nowhere near the level of LeBron James. I haven’t followed Miami close enough to know what James Jones can do but I’m guessing he sets wicked screens for DeeWade and that’s about it. If the Cavs play Atlanta in the second round it would most likely be LeBron guarding Joe Johnson. That should be fun to watch.

Jamin: Lebron James? Who is Lebron James? Let me start by saying, I want to see LBJ and D-Wade square off in the playoffs. I love watching these two super stars going head to head, they’re my favorite players in the NBA. That being said, Joe Johnson is definitely more of a problem for the Cavs, the boy can shoot and shoot some more. James Jones doesn’t concern me at all, he’s not going to score in double digits, he’s not going to pull in a bunch of boards and he’s not going to slow down the KING. Who gives the Cavs more trouble? Atlanta.

Power Forward: Anderson Varejao vs. Josh Smith vs. Michael Beasley

O’Ryan: I’ll give the edge to Josh Smith even though Varejao is my favorite Cavalier this season. Smith can take some pressure off Bibby and Johnson with his offensive skills. The problem for Smith is that he’s probably going to be defended by Anderson Varejao if Atlanta advances. Andy is one of the best at getting under player’s skins and if memory serves me well – Smith doesn’t have the best control of his temper. I look for Andy to get the better of him in that potential matchup. Beasley is young but he has a nice inside out game. The experience that he’s getting in his rookie season will pay dividends down the road as he develops into an All-Star caliber player.

Jamin: This is a hard one. On one hand you have the no skill all hustle Anderson Varejao. Andy has a knack for getting in the head of his opponents, a skill I admire and love but there is no way he is a better player than Josh Smith or Michael Beasley. Overall, Smith is the better player on all counts here. He can score better, he can rebound better and he can block your shot better. Beasley is going to be a good NBA player one of these days, he has all the tools necessary and is learning a lot in these play off games. I would not be surprised if he turns out to be an all-star eventually. Who gives the Cavs the most trouble? Atlanta.

Center: Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs. Al Horford vs. Jermaine O’Neal

O’Ryan: It’s hard to pick against the Large Lithuanian but I’m going to give this one to O’Neal by the slightest of margins because of the energy that he provides inside the paint. With Wade constantly looking to go to the rim, O’Neal is at his best when he crashes the boards and gets easy put-backs. His low post scoring is better than Z and Horford as well. Big Z brings awesome value to the Cavs because he can spread a defense with his outside shot. That doesn’t seem like it would be that important but opening the lane for LeBron is like giving a fat kid a giant piece of cake with whip cream frosting. Horford is still developing but has been here before as the Hawks gave Boston everything they could handle last year in the first round. I expect him to make an impact and create a tough matchup. Either way the Cavs are going to have matchup problems in my opinion. Mike Brown may choose to assign Anderson Varejao to O’Neal or Horford simply because Big Z doesn’t have enough quickness to stay in front of them.

Jamin: I don’t have much to say here, O’Ryan pretty much nailed this one on the head (yes that was hard for me to say). Overall, Horford and O’Neal are going to tear Big Z up on the inside. Who gives the Cavs the most trouble? Miami.

The Final Flow

Jamin: Overall I think Atlanta gives the Cavs more trouble than Miami. D-Wade just doesn’t have enough help around him to really make it past the first round. Either way the series goes between Atlanta and Miami expect both teams to be beat up when it’s done. There seems to be no love lost between these two teams and I expect there to be a couple ejections in tonight’s game. I see Miami winning at home tonight and then Atlanta winning game 7 at home.

O’Ryan: I have a feeling it’s going to go 7 games too, but since I miss watching the Cavs play and I’m getting pretty anxious I’m going to take Atlanta tonight in a nail-biter and let’s kick things off Sunday at The Q!

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