1. Luol Deng vs. Rudy Gay: Which player will ultimately have a larger impact on their new team?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid Co-EIC: I have to go with Deng here. Gay is a better basketball player than his stats (i.e., his absurd number of shot attempts per game) indicate, and he’s made a positive impact on the Kings thus far, but Deng will ultimately be able to do more for his new team than Gay will. The former Duke Blue Devil brings some legitimacy and veteran savvy that the Wine & Gold need. Even if Deng doesn’t play at the All-Star level he has played at in previous seasons, he should help the Cavaliers improve right now and start becoming a real basketball team on both ends. In short, he will help the Cavaliers move toward being a contender in a few years and maybe a playoff team this year. I can’t say the same about Rudy Gay in a Kings uniform.
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: As we didn’t identify positive or negative here, I have to go with Gay. Gay’s going to be on the Kings’ books for at least one more season, while Deng’s contract expires this summer. I think that he helps the Cavs this year, but past that, we are completely unsure of his future with the team. Gay, on the other hand, looks to be someone the Kings are content with building around, using him as a third cog behind Boogie Cousins and Isaiah Thomas. This puts Gay back in the role where he had his biggest success with the Grizzlies, one of which he is required to do a lot less scoring and a lot more defensive work. He might be one of the Kings’ best defenders, which makes him valuable. Moving forward, I see Gay having a bigger impact on the Kings, unless Deng re-signs, or the Kings deal Gay for an impressive THIRD time on this current contract.
Bryan Rose, A Royal Pain Editor-In-Chief: I’d probably have to go with Deng as he’ll take over the second role on the Cavs behind Irving. Gay has been scoring at an extremely efficient clip for Sacramento, especially as of late but with Cousins and Thomas ahead of him offensively, Gay is essentially the third option. Actually I’d say he’s more of a 2B type option behind 2A Isaiah Thomas, but Deng should have the bigger statistical impact. That said, Gay will still make a huge impact on the Kings who were in DESPERATE need of a player who can contribute offensively to take pressure off Cousins and Thomas.
2. DeMarcus Cousins is having the best season of his career thus far. How can the Cavaliers slow down ‘Boogie’ down low?
CM: I love me some Boogie on the block. He is explosive and can finish explosively. However, when you take a look at his shot chart, it’s clear that he struggles at the rim and that’s an area where the Cavaliers can frustrate Cousins. Anderson Varejao is still quick enough to stay with Cousins for stretches and I’m betting that he can annoy Cousins. Varejao, with his style of play, is a pest on defense. He won’t be able to shot block (nor will Tyler Zeller off the bench) but I do think Varejao can stay in front of Cousins and frustrate him enough to get into this head, force him to take dumb shot and thus eliminate the King who has the best chance of having a big day against this Cavaliers team.
TM: I think getting in Cousins’ grill is the best way to take care of him. If he has to face an intense defense-first center who plays physically and will be like a wasp in his ear the entire night, Cousins will start chucking mid-rangers and stop giving a crap on both ends. Luckily for the Cavs, they have one of those players in Anderson Varejao. With Andy hounding Cousins all night, and a small dose of Tyler Zeller’s underrated post D for stretches, we could see DMC getting frustrated very quickly if he misses a few shots to start the game. Add in the rebounding prowess of those two, and the Cavs’ centers are now able to handle the same things Cousins is good at, and that is going to make life rough for the big guy.
BR: Frustrate him. If Cousins has a weakness (outside of defense), it’s being frustrated. But that weakness has slowed down severely in recent months and he’s no longer picking up the frustration fouls or letting poor calls take him out of his game. Outside of that, there isn’t much that can be done with Cousins on the offensive side. Dude is a beast and is an automatic double-double nightly.
3. Isaiah Thomas is nice player, but does he bring anything to the table that Kyrie Irving can’t handle?
CM: Thomas is an alright player and is a starting caliber point guard. However, Irving is just on another level. The Cavaliers’ star should be able to penetrate and create his own shot against Thomas, a minus defender no matter how you break it down. Offensively, he is quick and Irving isn’t exactly a lockdown defender in his own right and I think he will be able to have some offensive success against Irving. Kyrie is showing signs of improving in defending the pick & roll, but Thomas-Cousins PNRs could be a nightmare for the Cavaliers to defend. All in all, both players are going to get theirs but Kyrie is going to have a bigger game. He’s just better than Thomas – plain & simple.
TM: I have to give it to Isaiah. He was one of my least favorite players to watch last season, an overrated ISO machine who couldn’t do anything on defense. However, this year, he’s been a lot better at converting those ISO looks and in the Pick-and-roll, where he’s a top-25 scorer as a ballhandler, which he does on 37 percent of his offensive possessions. That’s going to be really hard to defend for the Cavs, particularly because IT is shooting 46 percent from three off the PNR. That’s absurd for the ball-handler to be making, and that’s going to be a huge issue for the Cavs to defend. However, Kyrie played the PNR quite well on Friday against the Jazz, so maybe this is a sign of things to come. Thomas is also a very mediocre defender still, which is an improvement from god-awful last season, but he is just far too small to defend well, especially when the Cavs run Dion at the top of the key. Isaiah has been better this season, but still not good enough to make this video a valid argument (#NeverForget). Even though I have nothing against Thomas, I hope Kyrie goes for 50 tonight just out of spite for that video.
BR: Isaiah is coming off his worst game of the season against the Orlando Magic (oddly enough) and will look to return to form against Irving. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Thomas is an absurdly hard cover for just about any guard – Irving included – as he’s one of the quickest players in the league and has now added an incredibly impressive jumper to go with his lightning quick first step. I don’t really see Thomas stopping Irving offensively and I don’t really see Irving stopping Thomas offensively. Both should feast off each other and put up some nice numbers.