1. Harrison Barnes has really not progressed as many hoped he would this season. Where do we stand on every Cavs fans’ favorite draft debate between Barnes and Dion Waiters, now almost two years into their careers?
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: I think the days of “We totally should have drafted Barnes over Waiters!!!!!111!!” are done, for now. Barnes is still the better defensive player and three-point shooter, but I think the gap has closed a lot in the last half of the season. Barnes has yet to demonstrate that he can attack off the dribble without hilarious results, as it looks like he is dribbling through rubber cement when attacking off the dribble. Meanwhile, Waiters has flourished this season in his sixth-man role, and while he’s still not very efficient, he can create off the dribble consistently and is a solid energy for the Cavs. He’s also shown to be a decent passer and his one-on-one defense is greatly improved from last season. I still think Barnes is the better building block because he’s a demon in transition and defensively solid, but I definitely don’t think the Cavs “messed up” by not drafting Barnes, by any means.
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: As it stands, I would take Waiters over Barnes everytime. Barnes has his flaws, but he is going to be a solid rotation player on good teams. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Waiters has the potential to be so much more. It’s still more J.R. Smith than you’d like out of your sixth man, but he’s starting to turn the corner in his development. He has shown the ability to score, the ability to play solid defense and is developing nicely alongside Kyrie Irving. Unless the Cavaliers can nab another elite player at the top of the draft or through a trade/free agency, there’s a chance Waiters becomes the Cavaliers second option long term. There isn’t a chance Barnes develops into that.
Eric He, BlueManHoop.com EIC: If you had asked this question during the playoffs last year when Barnes averaged 16.1 points per game, filling in for David Lee at power forward, I would have said Barnes over Waiters by a long shot. But for whatever reason, Barnes has struggled to duplicate that effort this season. His deficiencies are still the same as last season — inconsistent jump shooter and too passive on offense. I think many people expected him to make the leap to a star-level player, but his demotion to the bench and other factors have hindered Barnes. Meanwhile, I think Waiters has the potential to develop into something real special for the Cavs, while with Barnes, I only see his potential as being a third or fourth option on a good team.
2. Spencer Hawes has really helped the Cavaliers offense, but how will he help his team against a underrated Warriors defense anchored by Andrew Bogut?
TM: The Warriors have a great team defense, and a lot of that hinges on Bogut’s rim protecting abilities. Spencer Hawes, while a great three-point shooter that can stretch the defense by pulling rim protectors away from the basket, will likely not have much affect against the Dubs. Unlike guys like Roy Hibbert and Omer Asik, who use their size primarily to cover the paint, Bogut relies equally on a large frame and great mobility to contest shots, even when defending the pick and roll. He can cover a lot of ground quickly, and shouldn’t have much problem recovering to a slipped Hawes screen to pop a three. I would also expect to see the Warriors use Andre Iguodala for stretches to guard Kyrie Irving, as he’s long and quick enough to contain Irving on the perimeter. I can’t see the Cavs denting a Bogut/Iguodala PNR tandem with Kyrie/Hawes pick and pop.
CM: Ideally, the Cavaliers will run pick and rolls as many times as they can with Hawes and Kyrie Irving. You can sub in Dion Waiters in for Irving as well. Still, Bogut is extremely mobile inside and it’s going to be tough for the Cavaliers to pull him away from the basket and get clean looks at the rim. The key here will be how well Hawes can shoot from three. If he can get in a groove like he did in the first half against the New York Knicks, Bogut will be forced to step out and defend Hawes at the three point line. This opens up space for pick and rolls, back door cuts and other different attacks for the Cavaliers offense. If he’s not shooting well from deep, the Cleveland offense may get slowed to a crawl.
EH: Many people believe that the Warriors are this “high-flying” team that shoots lights-out and win games with their offense, but it’s their defense that has contributed most to their success this season. They allow their opponents to shoot 43.3 percent from the field, which is tied for second in the NBA. A lot of that has to do with Bogut, who is one of the best defensive centers in the game and patrols the paint. However, with Hawes’ ability to shoot threes, that will force Bogut to venture out (something he doesn’t like to do) and potentially open up the lane for other Cavs to score at will. I would expect some defensive switches to be made by the Warriors so that this doesn’t happen.
3. What Warriors strength will hurt the Cavaliers most: Their rebounding or their passing?
TM: The rebounding for the Warriors is going to be big. Bogut, Barnes, Mo Speights, David Lee, Iguodala, and even Jermaine O’Neal can all crash the boards well, and the Warriors have one of the smartest rebounding frontcourts in the NBA with Bogut and Lee. They are great at not just getting good positioning, but timing their rebound attempts to get them at the perfect moment over their opponents. While the Cavs are a decent rebounding team, they’re also a very erratic one, and a team like the Warriors will likely have great success and a greater number of opportunities, because I expect them to get plenty of chances as a result of the Cavs probably having a rough time with the Warriors’ defense.
CM: Looking back at the Cavaliers entire season, their worst losses have come agains teams that that move the ball well and are loaded with good three-point shooters. Warriors guard Klay Thompson will be out tonight, but this team still has Stephen Curry, Andre Igoudala and others available. The Warriors are also eighth in the NBA in assists per game and are stylistcally an awful matchup for the Cavaliers. The potential rebounding differential is worrisome, but the Warriors’ passing is waiting to rip the Cavaliers wide open.
EH: The Warriors are the second-best rebounding team in the league, which is another much-improved stat compared to last season. Bogut and Lee, especially, are monsters on the glass. However, I think the Warriors’ passing skills will have a bigger impact. It’s extremely hard to defend against a team that moves the ball around to find the open shooter, and the Warriors do that well. All five of their starters, from Stephen Curry to Bogut, can pass the ball well. They even have a play design where Bogut holds the ball at the top of the key while Curry or another guard tries to find an opening for Bogut to pass them the ball. When the Warriors share the ball and find the open man, they are lethal with their array of three-point shooters. What the Cavs must do is force them into isolations in the half-court set, which really slows down their offensive pace.