Playoff Previews: Part 5

Mike Gallagher
Rotoworld

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (7)

The Cavs had some success against the Pacers this season, winning the season series 3-1. They did lose the rebounding battle and they only had a 3.6 net rating over those 202 minutes, so it’s not like they dominated. Plus, the Pacers didn’t have some key pieces missing and also the Cavs are trending down. Have you heard about the Cavs trending down?????????

Cleveland Cavaliers 

Noteworthy Injuries

One game missed: LeBron James, Kevin Love

Two games missed: Kyle Korver (trade)

Three games missed: J.R. Smith, Deron Williams (trade)

Lineups breakdown

Honestly, there really isn’t anything here, so how about we just look at their defense?

In the last 23 games, the Cavs have a 111.6 defensive rating, which ranks 28th in the NBA in that span. They give up more shots at the rim than most teams and it’s not like teams have even hit a ton of treys against them. So what lineups and combos are responsible for this drop off?

Their four best players are in both of their egregiously bad lineups. As a four-man combo, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson have a defensive rating of 125.0 in their 189 minutes. What might even be crazier is that they only played at a 96.3 pace in that time, so it’s not like they’re getting beat up the floor all the time. While the Cavs as a team haven’t been thrashed from deep, that four-man group has with opponents making 44.6 percent from deep in that 189-minute span. They’re basically giving up MVP-like efficiency to shooters, allowing a 64.9 true shooting percentage to teams in that time. You can't win basketball games against playoff teams like that.

Luckily for the Cavs, the Pacers aren’t much of a 3-point shooting team. Indiana ranks just 27th in total 3-pointers attempted, but they are actually fourth in the NBA in percentage made. In other words, Nate McMillan should be figuring out how to get his guys some treys. More on that later.

Thriving Players

This guy

No, not the kid.

In three games against the Pacers, LeBron James averaged 32.3 points, 8.3 boards, 8.0 dimes, 1.3 steals and 2.7 treys. He was extremely efficient with his 66.8 TS%, so maybe he even gets a bump on his 31.2 usage rate and 40.8 minutes per game.

For what it’s worth, LeBron had a 31.1 usage rate last regular season, but it actually dropped to 30.6 in the postseason. Although, his minutes increased by almost three minutes, so he had an overall usage bump. Plus, his assist percentage and total rebounding percentage also went up even with the minutes bump. It’s Bron season.

Kyle Korver was ridiculous against the Pacers in two games. In those, he scored 25.5 points, 5.0 boards, 1.0 assists and 7.0 treys on an absurd 104.3 true shooting percentage. Yeah, may wanna cover that guy, Mr. McMillan. Still, you would think Korver’s outbursts are a big fluke, and it’s also worth a mention Kevin Love didn’t play in one of those.

Struggling Players

Nobody really had a bad stat line, but the defense of Kevin Love was on display in this series. He should still be very effective on the stat sheet and he did average 20.3 points, 12.7 boards and 2.7 treys on 59.0 TS% against the Pacers.

X-Factors

It has to be Kyle Korver for the above reasons. Plus, J.R. Smith is not playing well on the defensive end, so maybe Smith has a quicker hook. If the Cavs can't defend, they'll need Korver to get hot.

Indiana Pacers

Noteworthy Injuries 

One game missed: Al Jefferson, Lavoy Allen

Two games missed: Thaddeus Young

Three games missed: Lance Stephenson (trade)

Lineups Breakdown

Thaddeus Young missing two games is interesting here because the Pacers starters were effective. They limited the Cavs to just a 93.7 offensive rating while they held their own on the offensive end.

What’s more, Young has a positive net rating when he’s next to each of the starters in this season series. He’ll likely be guarding LeBron a decent amount because of how much energy PG-13 will have to spend on the other end.

Thriving Players

Paul George wasn’t great with his 24.8 points per game on 41.6 percent from the field in the four outings. However, he’s played a lot better these days. Since Mar. 1, George posted a 30.9 usage rate and a 63.3 usage true shooting in those 22 games. Before that, he was at 28.2 usage rate and a 56.4 TS%. Why? His shots charts explain a lot. His last 22 games are first and Game 1-53 are second:

Not a bad increase, huh? His shot distribution actually didn’t change much and there wasn’t much of a trend of him playing better in certain lineups. His usage also turned up a notch later on games and in the season, and also he really improved on catch-and-shoot treys at 44.8 percent in March and April.

Expect big numbers from PG, especially against the weak Cavs defense.

As you might expect, Jeff Teague also did some work against the Cavs, averaging 18.5 points, 4.3 boards, 11.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.8 treys on a tidy 61.6 TS%. DFS players know the Cavs give up some big lines to PGs, so Teague should be able to hang some big lines. It doesn’t sound like his ankle injury from Wednesday will be a problem.

Struggling Players

Nobody really had a bad series, but Lance Stephenson didn’t play well in his one game. Fire up those blowing-in-ear GIFs.

X-Factor

It has to be Thad Young. His defense on LeBron will go a long way and he will need to hit the glass hard to give the Pacers some extra scoring chances. If Young has a good series, this could go the distance.

Prediction

Cavs 4-2

Washington Wizards (4) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5)

The Wizards were able to take this series 3-1, but it was fairly close with only a 3.3 net rating difference. The Wizards won the battle on the boards and this series was also played at a fast pace of 105.4 -- the Hawks may want to slow that down a tad. Plus, the Wizards’ one loss was in the season opener. That’s important to remember because the Wizards were not playing good ball back then.

Washington Wizards

Noteworthy Injuries

One game missed: Kelly Oubre

Three games missed: Bojan Bogdanovic (trade), Brandon Jennings (trade), Ian Mahinmi

Lineups Breakdown

That’s a 67-minute difference from their most-used lineup to the second most. Interestingly, the Hawks were still able to keep the starting unit in check with a -2.6 net rating. That lineup also pushed the pace at 105.6 and they also won the battle on the boards — a 30.9 offensive rebounding percentage is really good. They really struggled shooting the ball even though they had a GSW-like 70.2 assist percentage, so expect their offense to get going.

Thriving Players

Otto Porter had a really strong series, averaging 12.3 points, 6.5 boards, 1.8 assists, 0.5 blocks and 1.8 treys on a 66.6 true shooting percentage -- a devilishly good efficiency. Now that we know he was playing through a back injury, maybe that’s why his minutes fell off a bit in the second half. He should be in the mid 30s.

Struggling Players

John Wall didn’t have a good series against the Hawks, averaging 18.5 points, 5.3 boards, 8.8 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.8 blocks, 3.8 turnovers and 0.8 treys on just 32.9 percent from the field. He did get to the line 8.3 times per game, so he was able to get to 43.8 TS% — that’s still bad. Here’s his shot chart: 

Do we give Dwight Howard credit here? We do not. Wall was actually a better scorer when Dwight was on the court, but it’s obviously a small sample. The Hawks have been good at keeping non-shooters out of the paint, so most credit should go to coach Mike Budenholzer, and maybe some to Paul Millsap.

Wall is on fire from three this month with his 61.5 percent from deep in April, so that could potentially be a back-breaker for the Hawks. He’ll be a beast, especially after Dennis Schroder has given up some big lines. Again, don’t forget Wall wasn’t very good earlier in the season, so that explains his subpar performance here.

Bradley Beal was just below average in this series, but again he has improved as the year as gone along.

X-Factor

Kelly Oubre has played extremely well lately. The Hawks love to close with Paul Millsap at the five now, so the emergence of Oubre could help match up against that combination more. He’s still not someone we can use in fantasy, but he’ll have an impact in this series one way or another. He can go on some mistake streaks.

Atlanta Hawks

Before we get to the breakdown of the season, the Hawks will be tweaking their rotation. Now that they’re healthy, Taurean Prince is still going to start next to Tim Hardaway Jr. on the wings. Kent Bazemore will come off the bench to be a more high-volume guy in an offensively-challenged second unit. That makes a lot of sense based on how Baze did more ball-handling earlier in his career.

Prince is probably going to have to guard Bradley Beal a lot in this series, so don’t expect him to take many shots on the offensive end.

Noteworthy Injuries

One game missed: Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore

Three games missed: Ersan Ilyasova (trade)

Lineups Breakdown 

As mentioned, the rotation is really going to change here, so most of this stuff is irrelevant.

Thriving Players

Tim Hardaway Jr. lit up the Wizards, scoring 18.0 points with 3.0 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals on a 51/40/94 slash line. He was able to get to the rim almost at will with 36.2 percent of his shots coming within three feet, which is almost always key to his big games. He’ll probably be seeing a heavy dose of Otto Porter, but a starting role and minutes in the mid 30s set him up for a big opportunity. His $5.5K price for DFS will be something we talk about in the upcoming pod.

Dwight Howard had himself a solid series, averaging 14.3 points, 14.8 boards, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks in 31.1 minutes. Most of those minutes came before the Ersan Ilyasova deal, so it’ll be interesting to see how coach Mike Budenholzer plays D-8.  Considering all the pace likely coming their way, Howard will likely around 30 minutes per game.

Struggling Players

Kent Bazemore didn’t have much luck vs. the Wizards, making 25.0 percent from the field for his 7.3 points per game. His minutes should likely drop to around 22-24 in this series, so he’ll be a risky player to roll with in DFS. This probably wasn't a factor in benching him.

Dennis Schroder had 5.5 turnovers per game in those four, so that’s a problem. 

Prediction

Wizards 4-3

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