CLEVELAND CAVALIERS v WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Prediction: 4-3 WIZARDS
For the third straight year, the Cavs and Wizards are in a first-round matchup yet again. This time, the WIzards hope the saying “third time’s a charm” is indeed true. After losing the past 2 playoff series, Washington looks to finally score a series win but can they do it with Arenas coming off an injury and Caron struggling after recovering from his?
The series is tied at 2-2 in the regular season, with Agent Zero playing NONE of those games. It should have been 3-1 for the Wiz except for that game when Lebron sunk 2 pressure packed free throws to win the game for the Cavs 90-89. What’s the impact Arenas will have on this team? Well, it’s either they struggle because they aren’t used to having Agent Zero have the ball 65 percent of the time. It might slow down Jamison’s game as well as Caron’s, but it could also make the Wiz better in that they now have a legit shooter and scorer compared to just DeShawn Stevenson.
In the end, it’s definitely going to be a tight series. Any team with Lebron on it with 4 other guys, will always have a chance. I can always count on Z to play his game in the middle, but who else is there? Their lineup actually is pretty terrible especially after dealing Gooden to the Bulls for Big Bust… errr.. Big Ben. But as I said, any team with Lebron in it has a chance, and if any 2 of the players outside LBJ and Z play well, then the Cavs should have a decent chance at winning the series.
Cavs Season Summary:
After having a pretty solid team built around Lebron at the start of the season, the Cavs made a big trade in the middle of the season that brought Big Ben, Delonte West, Joe Smith, and Wally while dealing away Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, and two other insignificant players. Now how did this deal affect their team? My first opinion was that they got better. They got rid of Larry Hughes who plays so horribly with Lebron James. I mean, who can play bad with Lebron as a teammate! Apparently, his name is Larry Hughes. They brought in West, who for me was a solid point guard who could do everything with the right teammates and Wally who finally gave them a decent outside threat. And Joe Smith, who is very under-rated with his post moves and intangibles on court. Those are three keys to their success.
What’s my opinion on the trade now? Besides the fact that Wally and Joe Smith have played a handful of good games for them, the trade seems pretty bad. Z can’t play with Ben at the same time, neither can Varejao and Ben, so they are in a pretty bad quandry up front. When they traded out Gooden to the Bulls, they severely lacked strength in the PF position, and Varejao wasn’t going to be the guy who would get things done.
If their coach was smart enough to realize this and try out new combinations to their starting 5 within the regular season, he would probably have a better chance in a playoff series right now. He could have toyed with starting Joe Smith and Wally with Lebron, West, and Z. But he chose instead to go with Z and Ben who both clog the middle, and then use Lebron with Brown (who is actually a pretty solid player), but what they lack is outside shooting. They needed to get Wally into the offense to be able to do some credible and significant damage in the playoffs. As it stands, I don’t think he has that confidence in him yet and may be one of the big reasons they may not advance past this round.
Wizards Season Summary:
I still expected the Wizards to advance to the playoffs even without Agent Zero because Jamison and Butler are good enough to bring them there. The question was whether Deshawn and the bench guys could do enough to help those 2 guys along with Haywood. And they did. It was a breakout year for Roger Mason, who is a great three point shooter and has helped bail this team out on many instances. The emergence of Haywood as a solid player in the middle also figured a lot into their success this season minus Arenas. But the problem lies in the PG position with Daniels playing very poorly this entire season. When Arenas was injured, I expected Daniels to elevate his game to another level, instead, he did the total opposite. I honestly don’t know what happened to this guy, but he also needs to play well in the playoffs for the Wizards to be able to advance.
Deshawn Stevenson has opened his mouth and started talking about how Lebron James isn’t all that. It’s funny actually, and it’s a pretty bad thing to be doing because Lebron is going to make him eat his words. I’m pretty sure he will be averaging a career high in points and Deshawn will be slapping himself silly unless the Wizards (and my prediction) comes true. Is Lebron great enough to elevate his game and bring down the Wiz one last time?
POINT GUARD: DELONTE WEST v GILBERT ARENAS
When that big trade brought Delonte in from the Sonics, I thought the Cavs were now a complete team. But he’s had around 3 solid games, and just isn’t consistent enough to be able to be a factor. He IS a defensive guard, so it will definitely help in trying to contain Agent Zero, but other than that, he needs to make full use of his entire skill set to help his team! I don’t understand what’s going on with this guy, as he is capable of triple-double numbers every night. That’s how talented this guy is. His mind is just elsewhere for some reason.
If you have read Agent Zero’s Blog on his thoughts on playing the Cavs for the third time, he is pretty excited about it. I think he’s a big question mark coming into this series after recovering from that injury though, but he had that one big breakout game at the end of the season and I think that may just give him enough confidence to know that he can lead this team yet again and shoot those clutch shots. Arenas is at his finest when he is very confident. He has a bunch of videos on shooting matches with Deshawn with one hand, and his blog predictions, and it would be hard to doubt that he can really deliver. Will his body let him, is going the be the real question. If he is perfectly healthy for this series, Lebron’s Cavs will be in deep trouble.
SHOOTING GUARD: DEVIN BROWN v DESHAWN STEVENSON
The great thing about being in the Spurs system is that you learn to be a solid all-around player with a great penchant for defense. Devin Brown is a very solid player that many people discount. He will deliver if you need him to but won’t really ask for the ball. It’s also a blessing in disguise that Pavlovic is injured as he is a pure liability to Cleveland compared to the very efficient Brown.
Deshawn Stevenson runs his mouth too much and might get the Wizards in trouble if Lebron takes it personally. There’s no one in the league you want to piss off more than Lebron as he will destroy you. Very inconsistent, but tries to play good D all the time. It’s his heart and determination that is good but his game is just too erratic to be depended on. Let’s see how he does guarding Lebron, but most likely, he’ll be eaten up alive.
SMALL FORWARD: LEBRON JAMES v CARON BUTLER
Get this. The KING is averaging 30 points a game coupled with 7.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists this season. That is just INSANE. I’ve written a few things on who I think should be MVP but I discounted Lebron as I think Kobe or Chris Paul deserves it more. But honestly speaking, after seeing those numbers, there are three of them up there who can win that trophy now with Lebron having much crappier teammates to work with compared to the other two. Lebron does everything well and makes his teammates better. That’s all there is to it. He is a different breed of player, capable of taking over the game in an instant. No one can guard him one-on-one, and when he gets to the hoop, it is impossible to stop him. Opponents just need to pray that his outside game doesn’t click, because if it does, there is no stopping him.
If you thought Lebron’s numbers were great, think of a player who doesn’t have the ball go through him every single possession and still average 20.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists a game! Jesus. Caron Butler is a triple-double threat every single game, and his defense is uncanny. One of the most consistent steals leaders in the league, it will be great to see Caron play his best in this series. It’s going to be up-and-down and fast-paced, and should be more to Butler’s liking.
POWER FORWARD: BEN WALLACE v ANTAWN JAMISON
Big Ben is more aptly called Big Bust now in most circles. Having tricked the Bulls into signing him for an absurd amount at his age and having the Cavs take it also is testament to how good his manager is hehe. Ben has all-time lows in all category stats, but he still has his brilliant moments but they now come once in a blue moon. The Cavs should hope that the real Big Ben shows up otherwise he will be rendered useless and Varejao will get most of the time up front with Z, along with Joe Smith. His defense is his specialty, but has dropped very significantly from what he is capable of.
Antawn Jamison has been amazing this season. With Arenas going down with an injury, he has led Washington to the playoffs with his solid play every single game and has become the leader of this squad. He is averaging around 21 points and a bit more than 10 rebounds a game this year, which is pretty amazing because he shoots a ton of threes. I think he is one of a few combo players who can do this on a daily basis and is integral to the success of the Wiz in advancing to the next round.
CENTER: ZYDRUNAS ILGAUSKAS v BRENDAN HAYWOOD
Big Z is slow, but slow and steady wins the race right? One of the most consistent big men who makes absolutely no noise but is the one key outside Lebron James for this team. He does everything a starting center should be doing, having scored around 15 points a game coupled with around 10 boards and close to 2 blocks this season. If for some reason Z gets injured in this series, Cleveland can forget about it and start packing their bags.
Haywood has been a revelation this year. He is averaging an awesome percentage from the field and is a very solid defender. He has also developed a few post moves which should help every now and then when the offense strays away from the Wizards Big 3. It will also be key to see if they can get Big Z in foul trouble but Brendan will definitely make life harder for the slashers on the Cavs side. His value, especially in the fantasy world, was tremendous this season, averaging I believe career-highs on all categories with only Blatche spelling him as Etan Thomas is out. It will be good to see how he does in the playoffs this 3rd time around against the Cavs. I see him going for around 10 points a game but averaging 12 rebounds and 2 blocks a game in the post season.
BENCH: Wally Szczerbiak/Joe Smith/Anderson Varejao v Roger Mason/Antonio Daniels
The bench play is more key to the Cavs than it is for the Wizards. The Big 3 of Jamison/Butler/Arenas can score a hundred points all by themselves. The question is, who from the Cavs outside of Lebron and Z can score? Wally and Joe Smith are then key off the bench. If they can come in and spell the starters properly, it should be a very competitive series. Mike Brown should realize that he needs to get these two guys in the game more instead of using Big Bust or Varejao, as both those guys can’t score. Joe Smith can do everything those two players can do, and one thing all of them lack, is the shooting Wally can give them. Unfortunately, Wally hasn’t quite fit in the Cleveland offense yet, and its already playoff time. Blame that fool coach of theirs. They should be peaking now, but instead, they are still adjusting. Boobie Gibson and Damon Jones need to be good sparks off the bench as they are 2 of 3 shooters the Cavs have.
For the Wizards, Daniels should be back in the bench as Arenas gets back his starting job after a few adjustments in the latter stages of the season coming from his injury. Roger Mason has been amazing this year, and might be the first one off the bench and not Daniels. Andray Blatche and Darius Songaila will be very key big men to spell Haywood or Jamison, and have been very effective this season. They both shoot a very high percentage from the floor and Blatche has his occassional great defensive games off the boards and blocking shots.
The bench play though are totally different for both teams. While the Cavs have more offense coming from the bench to compensate for the lack of it in their starting five, the Wizards bring in more defense and stability off the bench. For me, that is a better balance of transition between starting fives and benches. Even if the Cavs bench on paper are better in terms of offense, I believe the Wizards bench comes out stronger in the end because of how they immediately impact the game. But in terms of sheer talent, the Cavs have all the tools they need in their bench to make a great run. Unfortunately, they are not in that state right now, and it might be a bit too late for that adjustment to happen in the playoffs.
ADVANTAGE: CAVS by a hair