1. Kyrie Irving has said that he'll start out defending Steph Curry. But who should the Cavs use to primarily defend Curry? And how does that affect Cleveland's defensive gameplan as a whole?
Wiliam Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle): Everyone. Anyone. Communication will be paramount; talking one another through screens and switches, big men barking out help location. It'll take all five guys to do it effectively, because it's not just Steph's outside shot that causes problems, but his gravitational pull on the entire defense. If Kyrie is close to 100%, I'd say the Cavs should start with him, because if he can do an alright job, that would allow the rest of their defensive matchups to fall in line. In reality, though, it'll be a mix of Kyrie, Shumpert, J.R., LeBron and Delly.
Trevor Magnotti (@TMagnotti): I have to assume that the Cavs are going to throw the kitchen sink at Curry. The best way to contain him is to constantly throw different looks at him so that he can't get in a rhythm. Starting Kyrie on him works, but then, the first pick-and-roll they try, switch it, and he's got to try to drive on or shoot over Tristan Thompson. A few possessions later, switch to Iman Shumpert. Then back to Kyrie after that. Then start the second quarter with Matthew Dellavedova chasing him around 94 feet. Then try LeBron on him. The Cavs have the flexibility to do this, so varying the defense until something sticks is probably the best bet.
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): It's going to have to be Kyrie. Curry's going to get his no matter what, so it doesn't make sense to use Iman Shumpert on him to start when the Warriors could roast Irving if he's defending Klay Thompson. When Dellavedova is on the floor, use Dellavedova to defend Curry. When the Warriors are playing Andre Iguodala and/or Shaun Livingston with Curry, try to hide Kyrie then. Having to use Kyrie so much, at least in theory, is the best way to keep the plan simple and avoid creating other problems by virtue of trying to do the impossible and slow down Curry.
Mike Mayer (@MikeMayer64): Kyrie, especially considering his injury, is going to be a liability on defense no matter what. But I'd probably rather start with him on Klay and put Shump on Curry, and if Klay ends up beating the Cavs then so be it. Leaving Kyrie on Curry for long stretches is just asking to get destroyed. I also think there will be a role for Dellavedova to play. He can come in and annoy Curry by getting up in his face for the entire length of the floor, and hopefully that knocks him out of his rhythm. And one final note: I don't know exactly how it might end up happening, but hopefully we get to see LeBron guard him down the stretch at some point because that would be fun.
Justin Rowan (@Cavsanada): As I wrote about earlier this week, I would stick with Kyrie on Steph Curry when both starting lineups are out. It allows the Cavs to play the rest of the team straight up and helps eliminate some of the confusion that comes with crossmatching/ rotations due to double teams. I agree with Chris in that I would try to hide Kyrie a bit once the Warriors start going to their bench, but when the starters are in, play them straight up.
Aaron Perine (@Sumitlakehornet): The Cavs might employ a revolving door approach that is usually reserved for LeBron James on the other side. Making him work to get open is just as important as having a single person that matches up well on a shooter of his caliber. That said I believe that if the Shumpert, Smith, Irving, Dellavedova corps can do an adequate job of making it harder for Curry than James might be able to take the Cavs home in the crunch with his defense on the point guard.
Ryan Mourton (@Ryan_Mourton): I would play Kyrie on him, I think, unless it's a critical situation. Much like Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose, just let Steph get his. YES YES YES I know, Teague and Rose are off brand PG's compared to Steph right now, but I like the thought of limiting the other options they have, similar to how they choked out the Hawks' sets.
2. How does Tristan Thompson match-up with Draymond Green?
WB: Their personalities and precise skill sets are very different - Tristan is a somewhat quiet big man, while Draymond is a brash wing player - but both are high motor guys who excel at filling in the cracks and doing all the little things their teams need them to do. I worry a bit about Thompson's ability to stick with Green on the perimeter; on the flip side, I'm sure Golden State is concerned about Draymond keeping Tristan off the offensive glass. I think it's a pretty even matchup, and I, for one, can't wait to see how it plays out.
TM: It depends on the role Green is playing, probably. In minutes where Green is at the five, I love the matchup, because Green will have to be responsible for Thompson on the offensive glass, and if they're going to post Green up in the high post or have him run high screens, Thompson can cover both those things. If Green's at the four or three, I don't like it, especially in lineups where Curry or Klay Thompson are resting, because then Green takes over a playmaking role from the perimeter, and I'd rather have LeBron on him for that and let TT play free safety on Harrison Barnes or something like that. I think that is a little more lineup-dependent than many are considering.
CM: How the Warriors deploy Green largely impacts the answer to this question. When Green is interchangeably playing the three and four, it pulls Thompson away from the glass. When the Dubs go small and Green at the five, the Cavs should immediately counter by going small with Thompson at the five and force Green to have to spent a ton of his energy keeping Thompson off the boards. Overall, these are two players who are excellent at very specific things and how they matchup is going to be fascinating, as they both have the skills to cause a problem for another.
MM: It should be a fascinating matchup to watch, and as my colleagues have noted, how it plays out will depend in large part on how the Warriors use Green. One thing I'd worry about from their perspective would be the possibility of Green picking up early fouls while battling Thompson for rebounds. If that happens and he has to sit more than anticipated, it will take away some of the things they want to be able to do because he's so versatile and works with so many different lineups.
JR: This is probably the matchup I'm the most optimistic about outside of LeBron James vs. whoever they put on him. While Green is going to see some time on LeBron, he's going to be forced to try and contain Thompson for large stretches of the series. Thompson has a considerable advantage in size and his relentlessness is likely to get under the skin of the hotheaded Green. I think Thompson has the perfect skillset to make things difficult for Green on offense and to abuse him on the offensive glass. Green is a really damn good player, but I don't love this matchup for him.
AP: These two are going to pretty much hate each other by the end of this series regardless of games played between the two teams. I think Tristan has a slight edge because of Draymond's disposition. Tristan has frustrated a number of larger players on the glass this postseason. I do still worry about the spacing elements of Green in the Warriors scheme because they are not the Hawks where the spacing turned out to be illusory in the case of Antic and Millsap.
RM: I'm not sure, I think it might surprise some people though. One of the things Paul Millsap learned is that Tristan Thompson is bigger AND quicker than he is. I'm not sure how Draymond compares, I won't pretend to know, but Thompson's length, quickness, and singular focus have given other teams fits.
The common refrain I've gotten to that, when consulting twitter is "MARC GASOL, ZBO, BROW, AND HOWARD YOU MORON!" Fair, I guess. Here's the thing though, Keeping those four players off the glass is your goal, your one goal. They are the target. You are probably already near them, defending them, when the ball goes up. What makes Thompson dangerous, what sets matching up with him apart, is that you are helping off of him. You want to keep LeBron from getting to the rim, you need to seal Mozgov's follow so he can't get an easy alley-oop, you need to recover to a shooter because of a 1-3 pick and roll. Thompson is a forgotten component in defending the Cavs offense, and thanks in part to that, he is killing guys on the glass.
3. Who is more important for the Cavs in this series: Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith? And why?
WB: Iman Shumpert's defense will be vital, but J.R. Smith has the ability to steal a game on his own if he gets hot, particularly from outside. He helps fill some of the "stretch the floor" void left by Kevin Love's absence; even if he isn't hitting, the Warriors will have to respect him. This is a tough question, but I'll side with Earl Smith, Jr.
TM: Shumpert being locked in defensively is gonna be key......but given how the Warriors strangled the Rockets' one-dimensional offense at times, I think the Cavs need the Pipe more. If Kyrie isn't 100%, J.R. will need to hit a lot of ridiculous shots to keep things from being All LeBron Everything like they were for much of the Bulls series. J.R. also needs to be great defensively, because if we're planning on using Shump on Curry at all, that's logically going to mean J.R. defending Klay, Iguodala, and potentially even Barnes. We know he can potentially handle it, but he's gotta be a force defensively in order to unlock all the things Cleveland wants to do on that end.
CM: I think it's Smith. He's the better shot maker of the two and the Cavs are going to need all the points they can get to keep with Golden State. On top of that, Smith is going to have to be putting in effort on defense all series for the Cavs to be effective on defense. It's unavoidable that Smith is going to have to defend Klay Thompson, Iguodala and Harrison Barnes at some point. If he's engaged, he can be passible defending those players. But it's a necessity for Smith to be a two-way player for at least a majority of this series for the Cavs to win this series.
MM: Is that a cop out to say they are equally important? I don't think the Cavs can win the series unless both of them play really well. If I had to choose, I'd say Shumpert, because he'll presumably guard Curry a lot and if he can't contain him a little bit then it's over.
AP: I think Smith because his offense has a way of taking the other team off guard because of the volatile nature of his hot streaks. It could end up swinging a game. Although everyone does have a point, if Shumpert defends well the Cavs' chances increase exponentially.
JR: It's really tight, but I think it's going to be Smith. The Cavs need his offense without the presence of Kevin Love and a hobbled Kyrie Irving. An engaged JR Smith is actually a pretty good defender as well. Whether or not he's able to win a game during this series might decide the outcome.
RM: J.R., I think. He needs to continue to be a two way player. By that token though, it could also be Shumpert, maybe. Tough choice. So far, each has surprised, and somewhat strayed into the other's territory. Shumpert has been an above average to good three point shooter, while Smith has been a very good defender. Honestly they probably can't win unless both of them continue to play good D and hit open shots. With J.R. trending toward the exceptional on offense and Shump on defense.