1. Neither of these teams can really shoot. Is there potential this game could be terrible to watch?
Chris Manning, RDE co-editor: Absolutely. Both sides are loaded with inefficient and underperforming players. For Cleveland, you have Dion Waiters, zombie-like Andrew Bynum, a suddenly infective Tristan Thompson and a Kyrie Irving that hasn’t always played like himself. From the New Orleans side, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon all playing horribly. Ideally, this game turns into Irving, Bynum and C.J. Miles versus Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Morrow playing three-on-three. Otherwise, there is a very large chance this games becomes ugly early and stays that way for the entire 48 minutes.
Trevor Magnotti, Staff Writer: Good Lord, yes. I’m of the opinion that matching two teams with decent defenses that can’t shoot will always be a terrible game. The Cavs are ninth in defensive efficiency this season, and the Pelicans check in at around league average. Meanwhile, the Cavs are the 29th-best shooting team in the league, and the Pelicans are again, about league average. The Pelicans do have some solid three-point shooters, led by Anthony Morrow going supernova for 57 percent from three this season, but they also have Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans, all differing degrees of inefficient. If the Pelicans can’t get the three-point game going (And they don’t shoot many per game), and the Cavs are, well, the Cavs, I fully expect a boring, long-two filled, low-scoring game.
Marlowe Alter, Staff Writer: No. It might not be the highest level of NBA basketball but it will still be an entertaining ball game. There are 11 former top-10 draft picks with both teams sporting fledgling young talents, setting up intriguing matchups across the board. Each team boasts an all-star point guard; the Cavs have offensive juggernaut Kyrie Irving (21 years old) while the Pelicans will counter with defensive stalwart Jrue Holiday (23). Eric Gordon and Dion Waiters are explosive young two-guards who have struggled to find a rhythm in the early going. The last two number one overall draft picks – Anthony Davis and Anthony Bennett – will face-off for the first time. The Pelicans are 2-0 since sharp-shooting forward Ryan Anderson returned from a toe injury that kept him sidelined for the team’s first nine games.
2. How will the Cavaliers defend the red hot Anthony Davis?
CM: I want to see the Cavaliers run a lot of double-teams at Davis. Ideally, we will see either Thompson or Varejao on him at all times (with Earl Clark possibly joining in depending on foul trouble) and using Bynum to cheat over into the paint. This becomes an issue when Ryan Anderson is on the floor, as when Davis is in, you don’t want to give him any one-on-one touches in the paint. Thus, I want to see lots of Varejao, Thompson and Clark frontcourts and I want to that trio mostly used when Anderson is on the bench. That way, you can have Thompson on Anderson, Varejao on Davis and have Clark on Al-Farouq Aminu. Ideally, you can then double down on Davis and make him pass out of the post. It won’t work everytime – and they very well could run lots of post ups with both Anderson and Al-Farouq Aminu on the opposite side of the court – but I think this is where Mike Brown should start.
TM: The Cavs can’t match Davis’s athleticism. That much is fact. The frontcourt of Al-Farouq Aminu, Davis, and Ryan Anderson is so stylistically different from Cleveland’s. Ideally, you’d like Tristan Thompson on Davis, because he’s by far your most athletic big on the roster. I think we will see plenty of that in this game. However, when Ryan Anderson and Davis play together, I don’t think that works, mainly because you really don’t want Andrew Bynum or Anderson Varejao away from the basket and guarding Ryan Anderson. In that situation, Thompson should be guarding Anderson, and the center will try to slow down Davis. The Cavs could also get weird with this, because Aminu is such a non-threat on offense, and experiment with Earl Clark guarding Anderson, Thompson on Davis, and Bynum on Aminu and playing aggressive help defense. That’s either perfect or a dumpster fire. I’m not sure which.
MA: The second-year player is putting up MVP-type numbers and has been unstoppable at times offensively and a downright menace defensively. He’s averaging 21 points on 50 percent shooting, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 steals and a ridiculous 4.1 blocks per game (behind only Roy Hibbert). Davis leads the league in the popular Player Efficiency Rating, posting an astounding 30.24 though 11 games. A key to Davis’ early season success has been his ability to beat the other team’s big men down the floor, leading to easy buckets in transition or a trip to the foul line. Davis starts at power forward but will play double-digit minutes at center with Anderson complementing him as the stretch power forward. Tristan Thompson, Earl Clark and Anderson Varejao cannot lazily wallow back on defense against Davis or he will torch them in the open court. In the half court, Davis is a difficult matchup because of his guard-like skills. He has a smooth face-up jumper from the wing if you give him space, but can also handle the ball effectively and his long-strides afford him an advantage against slower defenders. Thompson has the quickness to stay with Davis and will start on him, but the key will be how the Cavs defend the pick-and-roll with Davis popping to the wing or rolling to the rim. The Pelicans will challenge the Cavs team defense and specifically their communication. Cleveland must be ready to rotate down low and sprint to recover against kick outs to Anderson and Gordon.
3. After Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis, who is the third best player in this matchup?
CM: A week ago, I would have said Tristan Thompson because my man crush was at an all time high, and as Trevor can attest to, I sometimes irrationally fall in love with players. But after he’s cooled off a little bit, I think the logical choice is Ryan Anderson. I think there are fair arguments to be made for Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and even Jarrett Jack(okay, maybe not), but none has the potential to be a game changer in the way Anderson can. He’s a deadly stretch four who, when on the floor with Anthony Davis, will create space that will be essential in getting the second year forward easy touches on the block. There’s no doubt in my mind that the answer is Anderson.
TM: Ryan Anderson? Can I pick that option? I know he’s been hurt, but in his first game against the 76ers, Anderson had 26 points and shot 6-10 from three-point land. I know that was in a 37-point win over the 76ers, and he only had one rebound in the effort, but Anderson’s still a potent rebounder and dead-eye shooter, and the Cavs definitely don’t have an easy way to defend him. I know there’s certainly a good case to be made for Jrue Holiday despite his slow start, or Eric Gordon, but I’m taking Anderson here.
MA: It comes down to the Pelicans’ foursome of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson. Gordon probably is the most talented, but his injury history makes his future uncertain. Evans, the 2009-2010 Rookie of the Year, is another talented player but his game suffered in the chaos of Sacramento and he hasn’t proven to be reliable. Anderson is a top-flight shooter and a solid rebounder but doesn’t offer much else. I’ll take the solid all-around player in Holiday, acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in a surprising draft-day trade. He’s coming off a breakout season in which he set career highs of 17.7 points and eight assists, earning his first-all star trip (thanks in part to injuries to Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose) at just 22 years old. Holiday has good size (6’4”, 205 lbs) for the point guard position, is a decent athlete and is well liked by everyone because of his easy-going personality. However, I don’t see him ever joining the ranks of the elite point guards because of his propensity to settle for long mid-range jumpers and his inability to draw fouls. He is a nice complementary piece who can score, pass and defend with excellent big game experience from two playoff seasons (18 games) in Philadelphia.
4. Which team has a more horrifying horrible mascot: Cleveland and Moondog or New Orleans and Pierre the Pelican?
CM: As scary and horrifying as Pierre is, at least he matches up with his team. Moondog is a dog dressed up in Cavaliers jersey who beats up on the Cavaliers mascot who actually fits the team, Sir C.C. Pierre may be eating children, ugly and scaring people, but he makes sense. That alone gets him the W.
TM:UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT: I like Pierre. I think he’s cool and unique in that he’s actually kind of unintentionally there to intimidate people. Moondog doesn’t make any sense. Pierre’s actually probably one of my favorite mascots in the league, right behind Benny the Bull, Crunch of the Timberwolves, and the immortal Bango of Milwaukee.
MA: I like the name ‘Pierre the Pelican’ but he is scary looking while Moondog looks like a cute, innocent yet somewhat sad doggy with a creepy expression on his face (why is he looking cross-eyed?). Sorry Pierre, you need a costume makeover.