If you would like to read the first part of this roundtable, click here.
1. Name the Cavs' role player who will have the biggest impact on the series.
David Zacac: J.R. Smith, for the reasons listed in the previous roundtable. But let's expand it and say Tristan Thompson and Mozgov. They've both been pretty darn good at various points of the playoffs, but haven't seen top competition. Can they keep gaining extra possessions for the Cavs?
Mike Mayer: I think it might have to be Dellavedova. Shooting and defense on the wing will be really important, and if Delly can provide that, it will be a huge lift.
William Bohl: Dellavedova. If Kyrie is still nicked up, Delly is going to have to step up, play solid defense against Jeff Teague and be competent on offense. He did it in the Chicago series; can he do it again?
Aaron Perine: Shumpert. He's tasked with initially guarding whoever the hotter Hawks guard is with Kyrie at less than a hundred percent. Will Shump be able to stay out of foul trouble and extend his hot streak from the Chicago series?
James Jones! Shumpert. I'd have him checking Korver, because he's the rangiest defender the Cavs have and he's the one guy I'd allow to help off Korver if needed because I know he can recover. Offensively I think we also forget that Shump isn't just a shooter; he can handle the ball a little bit, and that'll take pressure off Kyrie and Delly to create off the bounce. I think he'll need to have just as big of a role in this series as he did against Chicago.
Ryan Mourton: Shumpert, like last series I think. His ability to be a premier defender and provide double digit points and a three point threat is critical to the Cavs success as their stars get beat up and LeBron James searches for his shot.
Chris Manning: It should be Shumpert. Aside from who the Cavs have LeBron defend, who David Blatt has Shumpert defend is the most important tactical defensive positions for the Cavs in this series. There are strong arguments to be made that he should defend Jeff Teague or Kyle Korver and both will impact who everyone else on the floor defends. On top of that, the Cavs need him to hit threes like he did against the Bulls in order to somewhat replace what the Cavs lose without Kyrie being at 100 percent.
2. When the Cavs go small with a Kyrie/Smith/Shumpert/LeBron/Thompson lineup vs. the Hawks' starting five in the fourth quarter, who should each Cavalier guard and why?
DZ: Well, I'm not entirely sure who the Hawks will run out there. But probably, hopefully, Thompson on Horford, James on Millsap, Shumpert on Teague. After that I don't know if it matters.
MM: I definitely don't like the idea of a hampered Irving trying to guard Teague, so, as discussed above, I do think putting him on Korver so Shumpert can guard Teague make sense. I guess that leaves Smith on DeMarre Carroll, which is maybe not ideal but it should be fine.
WB: Oh, man. Shumpert on Teague, Kyrie on Korver, James on Millsap, Thompson on Horford, Smith on Carroll.
AP: Shumpert/Teague, Kyrie/Korver, LeBron/Millsap, TT/Horford, J.R./Carroll.
TM: LET'S GET WEIRD. I'd try LeBron on Teague because he can contain Teague off the bounce and then you can switch every PNR easily. Shump on Korver for the reasons outlined above. J.R. on Millsap - Smith's actually pretty strong and while you're giving up a lot of size there, you're banking on playing aggressive help D and J.R. sticking close to him off-ball, which you can get away with, I think. TT on Horford is pretty obvious. And then you're putting Kyrie on Carroll and daring the Hawks to attempt to make Carroll beat you. You're banking on a couple things to go right here (Smith being able to match up with Millsap and sound rotations and recovery), but I'm comfortable with trying to make Millsap and Carroll beat the Cavs if this lineup is going to be the late-game go-to.
RM: Assuming it's the Hawks starting lineup in question, play the opposing number straight up.
CM: Since everyone else has laid out the obvious, here's another weird idea that should probably be used sparingly at most: Have LeBron defend Horford. In this case, Thompson defends Millsap, Smith defends Carroll, Shumpert defends Korver and Irving defends Teague. In this case, LeBron can defend a big without having to bang with Millsap, Thompson can handle Atlanta's more physical big and you bank on Smith being able to track Carroll when he looks to get open threes. There are problems with it - Kyrie basically has to be mobile for this to work - but it's a curveball that the Cavs could throw at Atlanta to to put their best two defenders on the floor on Atlanta's best players while avoiding having LeBron bang down low over and over and over.
3. Who will win this series and why?
DZ: Cavs in 7. LeBron James. But I'm not particularly sure how this goes at all.
MM: I'll say Cavs in 6. If they get something out of Kyrie, I think they're the better team. Not by a lot, but by enough. Teams don't often win Game 7 on the road, so it will probably have to be in 6.
WB: Cavs in 6. I just don't think the Hawks have enough perimeter defenders to throw at LeBron, nor do I believe the Hawks' offense is operating anywhere near their peak efficiency.
AP: Cavs in 6. A great deal has changed since these teams last met. The Cavs still can't show up and expect to win but, best player in each series has won each series in the Eastern Conference Playoffs this year.
TM: Hawks in 7. The Cavs just don't have a ton of healthy bodies left, and the Hawks have four frontcourt players who can score going against two bigs, one of which will struggle with everyone but Horford. I'm really scared of that.
RM: Cavs in 7? Hawks in 5? I really don't know what to expect. Were the Cavs playing well or is Chicago that bad? Same question for Atlanta, were they playing poorly? Did Washington play great? The Celtics, Nets, Bulls, and Wizards are all either bad or bi-polar, making it hard for me to gauge what brand of ball brought these two teams here. I don't think a single outcome would surprise me, including either team getting their doors blown off. The Cavs have LeBron James, that should help.
CM: Hawks in seven. This series should be really close and LeBron should be the best player on the floor. But Atlanta is the deeper team and their style of play is going to take a toll on the Cavs as the series wears on.