After last night’s highly entertaining win over the Washington Wizards, I was contacted by Jake Weingarten of Bullets Forever to do a discussion about the Cavs and Wizards.
I enjoyed testing the waters to see just how confident Wizards fans are feeling after that game, their approach to the trade deadline, and more. This exchange will run both on FTS and Bullets Forever. So with that being said, let’s jump into it:
Justin: Obviously that was a phenomenal game with plenty of great moments. How does that performance change how you view the Wizards, if at all?
Jake: Well, I know too many people doubt the Wizards are actually playing like this third-seeded team, and that this is "luck". They just showed that they can compete with the best team in their conference for 48 minutes. They showed that they can compete with three all-stars, and defending champs. This game might have even been a motivation booster.
Justin: I can definitely see that. You could tell from the tip-off that this game meant a lot for the Wizards and they were really trying to see where they stood in this match-up. It's hard to take too much from a regular season game, but Washington has shown a consistency over the past month or so that I believe points towards legitimacy.
Where do you see the players that were absent fitting into this match-up? Where J.R. Smith would fit in is fairly certain based on his history with the Cavs, but how do you think Ian Mahinmi will fit in once he enters the lineup for Washington?
Jake: That would change the game significantly, seeing how Kevin Love had a dominant game, what if J.R was playing. J.R shoots the ball a lot, and that would definitely take away from Loves big night IMO. On the Wizards side of things, Ian Mahinmi would have been that physical presence in the paint. The fact that the Cavs had 13 OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS is UNACCEPTABLE. Mahinmi would have been huge in the paint last night and rebounding was a huge factor. The number of times I saw Tristan Thompson get an offensive rebound is insane.
Justin: I don't know if I agree with J.R. taking away from Love too much. That was certainly the case last season at times, but J.R. has played 21 games for Cleveland this year and Love was still made a priority
Are you of the opinion that Smith hurts the team? Also with Mahinmi, I'm more curious about how you see his role once he's back.
Jake: J.R seems to be more of a shooter, he had flashes of being a great facilitator but he definitely took some contested shots and made some unnecessary decisions, And for Ian, when he returns I see him being crucial for the bench unit. I know for a fact when he returns that he will be limited and won't be a starter. They need to keep this core of Keef, Wall, Beal, Porter, and Gortat as the starting 5. This lineup is special and unique, and inserting Mahinmi wouldn't be the best choice. I can see him coming off the bench early.
Justin: Where do you realistically see the Wizards in the East, compared to Boston and Toronto? Do you think they can get a top three seed to avoid the Cavaliers in the second round? Or do you think they need to be buyers at the deadline to elevate themselves to that level?
Jake: I can see the Wizards possibly being a one seed, if the Cavs have the same type of month like they did in January compared to the Wizards, we can definitely see a shape-up gone Postseason time. Your second Q, The only possible moves I can see being done is getting rid of bench players like Andrew Nicholson and Marcus Thornton. Two reasons, they need to dump some salary to 1) re-sign Otto 2) look at other FA's. At this point, I can see them looking into possible free agents like Derrick Williams or Jarrett Jack if that's the case I can see them dumping Marcus Thornton, who has barely played in the last few weeks.
Justin: Losing the biggest regular season game of John Wall's career probably didn't help the dream of the one seed. It's interesting that you see them unloading contracts to make room for their own guys this summer, rather than adding real pieces (with all due respect to Williams and Jack).
Jake: That doesn't necessarily throw away the dream even if they lost. Does it magnify the main topic of whether the Wizards can compete with the Cavs, and did they show that? Yes, they did. I think the Wiz can be 1, 2, or 3 seeded come playoffs.
Unloading contracts that are useless isn't an issue especially when it's dumping money that's gonna go towards team needs. The main focus is getting money to retain Otto this summer.
Justin: So you've really bought in on Washington being able to compete with the Cavs? They're five and a half games back of first. Even with their hot streak, getting the top seed feels ambitious.
Jake: Let's say the Wizards were 5 1/2 games back at the end of Dec-start of Jan. Wizards had an amazing January while Cavs did not. The Cavs performance last month and The Wiz performance last month shows anything can happen in this league.Dec-start of Jan. Wizards had an amazing January while Cavs did not. The Cavs performance last month and The Wiz performance last month shows anything can happen in this league.
After last night's win over a hot eastern conference team as of late, does that answer all the questions asking of the Cavs being #1?
Justin: It's definitely nice to get a road win over a team that was unstoppable at home. Cavs have struggled on the road and to get it without JR, Shump getting hurt, an off game from Kyrie and LeBron fouling out was encouraging. Although as always with the Cavs you can't take too much from a regular season game.
Jake: So there has been tons of controversy with Kevin Love, it was obviously cleared up after last night's game. If there was ever a Kevin Love trade scenario, where would love go, and what would Cavs need to receive?
Justin: I don't think they'd entertain anything that didn't net a star that fits better. Like a Jimmy Butler or Paul George. Love has played so well on both ends this year that there isn't really an incentive to move him.
Jake: More Cavs chaos, the PG position. Crucial, with Kyrie getting tons of PT, and a rookie off the bench, what are some possible names you would want to see in the Cav uniform. I know Farmar, Chalmers, and Jack comes to mind.
Justin: Deron Williams if he's bought out, Chalmers, Calderon, and Farmar would be the main ones for me.
Jake: Final question, final question, where do you see Kyrie Irving in the Eastern Conference PG Rankings?
What are your thoughts are Barkley and Shaq saying Wall is the best PG in the east?
Justin: I think Kyle Lowry has been the best regular season PG in the East for a few years. I'm fine with people saying other point guards have better regular seasons because Kyrie saves himself for bigger matchups and playoffs. He has that second gear a Lowry, or Thomas don't have. I think Irving and Wall have similar impact overall in different ways, but I think his shot making and range is more valuable come playoffs. Ultimately it comes down to preference and my preference is Irving.
Big thanks again to Jake Weingarten from Bullets Forvever for initiating this discussion and giving us a chance to touch base with an old Cavs rival. You can follow him on Twitter at @jakeweingartenn.