1. The Cavaliers are hot right now, as they’ve won four straight games and two of their young stars had huge weekends. Is this game a trap game?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: I think so. The Cavaliers are on a four game winnings street (albeit against some bad basketball teams) and are coming off a weekend where two of their key players (Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters) played well under a microscope. Sans their opening day win over the Brooklyn Nets where Andrew Bynum got a huge pop, this may be the highest the Cavaliers have been all season. With that said, the 76ers are downright horrible, but are stylistically a tough matchup for Cleveland. They will be fresh, on their home floor and should be ready to play. Let’s see if the Cavaliers can avoid the trap.
Marlowe Alter, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: Sure you can call it a trap game but honestly the Cavaliers aren’t that much better than Philly. Until this four-game win streak leading into the all-star break, the Cavs amazingly had just one more win than the tanking 76ers. Granted, the 76ers have lost a league-high eight straight games, but this young team should have their legs back under them, ready to run and gun at home against a subpar team without its best big man in Anderson Varejao. I think Philly controls the pace and wins this game.
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: Of course this a trap game. The Cavs have won four straight (Albeit against some terrible competition and all in close games), but their momentum has to have just stopped after taking a five day break. Meanwhile, Philly is headed into the easiest part of their schedule, with a five game homestand starting that’s toughest game is against the Wizards. I think the Cavs have a little bit of a tough matchup on their hands tonight. The Sixers are a lot like the Lakers, in that they play at a ridiculous pace, and are a solid havoc-creating defensive team, leading the league in steals, forcing turnovers on 14.5 percent of possessions. Granted, this might be the worst team in the league, but stylistically, they present a huge mismatch for the Cavs.
2. Which team would be better served to be active at Thursday’s trade deadline?
CM: If the 76ers can get someone to overpay for Evan Turner or Spencer Hawes, I think they’d be wise to do so. But unless someone blows them away, I can’t even justify trading away Thaddeus Young just because of how good he is and how he could easily fit in with their young core. On the flip side, the Cavaliers should be aggressive. Even if they just trade away C.J. Miles for a pick or trade away Jarrett Jack’s contract, they can start building for next season right now. This is especially true if they can trade away Jack’s contract, something they should be aggressively trying to move.
MA: Both teams aren’t winning this season, so both should be looking to get as much as they can for the veterans they have. We know the Sixers want to unload Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and possibly Thaddeus Young but will GM Sam Hinkie settle for less than a first round pick? It’s not so set in stone for the Cavaliers and acting GM David Griffin. C.J. Miles is an expiring contract and could help strengthen a contender’s bench, while Dion Waiters remains an intriguing young asset. I don’t see the Cavs shipping Luol Deng unless Griffin is blown away by an offer because it won’t make the team better this season (Dan Gilbert still believes they can win now right?). Ultimately, I think the Cavaliers would be better served to unload as many non-core players as possible. Philadelphia’s future looks promising whether they make a move or not.
TM: I think it’s the Cavs. The Sixers have to figure out what they are going to do with Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, because both can’t come back next season. However, Turner is a restricted free agent this summer that the Sixers could let walk, and Thad has enough redeeming qualities to potentially keep around in the right situation, and Philly would probably get good value for him after the season as well. Meanwhile, the Cavs really don’t have to do anything, but they would be well-served to either trade C.J. Miles to a contender, ship Luol Deng for assets, or free themselves from Jarrett Jack’s contract. I don’t think either team is very active at the deadline, but the Cavs are a better bet to make a deal.
3. The 76ers and Cavaliers at 10th and 11th in rebounds per game, respectively. With Anderson Varejao not available for Cleveland, who gets the better of the battle of the boards?
CM: Even without Varejao, I think the Cavaliers can handle the 76ers on the glass. A frontcourt of Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Luol Deng is solid enough to beat the 76ers. And with Philadelphia also missing Lavoy Allen, the Cavaliers should be able to win this battle. It might be close, but I think Cleveland gets the edge here and they’ll do it on the offensive glass.
MA: The Cavs are 13th in rebounding rate (the percentage of missed shots that a team rebounds), while the 76ers are 24th. However, without Varejao this won’t be a mismatch. Turner is a good rebounder at the small forward position and among point guards who’ve played at least 30 games, rookie Michael Carter-Williams leads them all with 5.4 boards per game. With multiple players who can clean the glass effectively, I think Philly wins the rebounding battle.
TM: Varejao might not be available tonight, but the Sixers are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league by percentage, ranking 26th in defensive rebounding rate. They also might be without their best rebounder, as Lavoy Allen will likely sit tonight with a knee bruise. That leaves Spencer Hawes and Thad Young to dual with Tristan, Zeller, Bennett and Deng, and I’m taking the Cavs in that battle. The Sixers have no depth right now in the frontcourt thanks to injury, and things look a lot brighter for the Cavs in the rebounding battle.