The Cleveland Cavaliers double teamed the Pacers Victor Oladipo for six of the seven games. Will that strategy come back into play against DeMar DeRozan?
For their second straight series, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be playing a team that has an all-star shooting guard as their best player. Against Indiana, it was Victor Oladipo, and against Toronto, it will be DeMar DeRozan. Both dynamic, game-changing players that need to be game planned against.
Oladipo is arguably a better player than DeRozan. Oladipo is certainly a better shooter and a more versatile defender.
Outside of the first few games, the Cavaliers luckily weren’t beat by solely Oladipo. In their four losses, it took a team effort, and that might be why this series against Toronto is easier for the Wine & Gold.
That said, there are a few ways to guard DeRozan, but given the Raptors have another all-star in Kyle Lowry, doubling DeRozan every time he gets a touch might be a more difficult strategy to pull off, especially given how Darren Collison, the Pacers starting point guard, tore Cleveland up during Game 7 when they opted to continue to double Oladipo.
So, it’s assumed the Cavaliers aren’t going to be doubling DeRozan, at least to start, but there are ways to help JR Smith, the Cavalier assumed to be taking the challenge of guarding DeRozan, out.
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First of all, you can send help on the drive. Unlike the Indiana Pacers, not all the Raptors rotational players can hit a three. That said, Lue should force Smith to play up on DeRozan and limit his mid-range and long-range shooting.
From there, you force him to attack.
Assuming the Raptors starting lineup is in, the Cavs can then choose to sag off on Jonas Valanciunas. Anunoby and Ibaka, the Cavs starting small forward and power forward, are also not lethal three-point shooters. Due to that fact, the Cavs can hang a player down low to help Smith or any Cavalier defender out.
So, my theory is if you allow Smith to man up on DeRozan and then slide Thompson over and continue the rotation from there you’d have a much better chance at slowing DeRozan down.
However, coming into the series against the Pacers, Lue’s gameplan wasn’t to double down on Oladipo. He chose to do that after a monster 32 point game that resulted in a blowout win for the Pacers.
Could Lue opt to do that against DeRozan if he has a tremendous Game 1?
There really isn’t anything preventing him from doing so. While OG and Serge are quality, starter-worthy players, they aren’t dynamic snipers like Bogdonavic and occasionally Thaddeus Young proved to be. The Raptors would have that same next guy up mentality if DeRozan struggled, but the question then is: could that next guy step up?
In the end, there isn’t going to be anything stopping Lue from doubling down on DeRozan besides the fact that his improved passing game, averaging 5.2 assists (a career-high), might be able to carve the Cavs defense up better than Oladipo’s.
Game 1 is tonight, and if DeRozan has a career night, expect changes in Game 2.