Matchup Preview: Orlando Magic vs Cleveland Cavaliers


Over the next month, we’ll be talking with a variety of people who cover each NBA team to find out a little bit about their team, and how they expect the season to go. We’ll also find out what they believe will be the most intriguing matchup when the two team’s meet during the regular season. Continuing with the Central Division, we look at the new look Cleveland Cavaliers. We’re joined by FearTheSwords Trevor Magnotti, whom can be found on twitter @Tmagnotti

Game Dates 

Monday, November 24th @ Cleveland 

Friday, December 26th @ Orlando 

Sunday, March 15th @ Orlando 

Last Season: 33-49; Finished 10th in Eastern Conference 

December 13th: Orlando 100 Cleveland 109 

January 2nd: Cleveland 87 Orlando 81 OT

February 19th: Cleveland 101 Orlando 93 

April 2nd: Orlando 98 Cleveland 119 

Projected Starters 

Point Guard: Kyrie Irving 

Shooting Guard: Dion Waiters 

Small Forward: LeBron James 

Power Forward: Kevin Love 

Center: Anderson Varejao 

Mar 18, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) stands under the retired jersey numbers of the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Miami won 100-96. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Quiet offseason, huh? What kind of challenges will the new look Cavs have finding balance between LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie? 

A: I think the biggest challenge for the Cavs to overcome regarding the Love/LeBron/Irving balance is going to be making sure that LeBron and Love can both be utilized optimally on offense. Both players are going to command major minutes at the four, with LeBron as a small-ball forward and Love as a more traditional stretch four. When you add in that Tristan Thompson and Shawn Marion are going to be getting minutes in this spot as well, it creates a bit of a log jam. Luckily, both Love and James are pretty versatile, and can still be effective in other spots; Love playing some small-ball 5 and LeBron playing out on the perimeter are still pretty ideal situations. Still, finding lineup combinations that allow both to get long stretches at the four without sacrificing defense (in LeBron’s case) or rebounding (in Love’s) is going to be important.

Jun 27, 2014; Independence, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt speaks to the media at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Q: What’s the biggest challenge that first year coach David Blatt is going to face? How do you envision him handling these challenges? 

A: Blatt’s a fantastic X’s and O’s mind. In my mind, his schemes won’t be in question, because he has a flexible system and appears to be the kind of coach that can make use of any number of play styles and roster profiles to find success. I also think he’s going to do fine with the psychosocial side of things, as he appears to be almost Popovichian in his firm demeanor and on-court presence, while still allowing his best players to play to his strengths. 

I think his biggest adjustment is going to be doing the little things that separate rookie head coaches from more experienced NBA hands. Much like the Magic have seen with Jacque Vaughn‘s transition into a head coaching role, I think there are going to be some speed-bumps for Blatt. Rotation management, both game-to-game and over an 82-game season, might be a struggle at first. I’m also interested to see how he handles drawing up plays in late-game situations — Of course, I’ve watched the Cavs over the last four years, so him actually drawing anything up will be improvement.

Finally, I think he’s going to struggle a little bit with how he handles media. I’m really interested in this, because we’ve seen both ends of the spectrum from him so far; he’s gone out of his way to do plenty of interviews, and seems very open and honest, which is good; but he’s also had a couple cringe-worthy moments so far, mostly regarding the Israel/Palestine situation. I’m interested to see how he navigates the media presence surrounding this team during the season.

Q: What’s one matchup you’ll have your eye on when the Magic and Cavaliers meet this season?

More from Games

A: My favorite matchup to watch during Cavs/Magic games last year was Anderson Varejao vs. Nikola Vucevic, and I’m excited to watch that again. Two of the league’s best earth-movers inside battling for rebounds is always really fun, and with the amount of small-ball both teams will be playing, that should be fun once again. While Vucevic is a limited defender, he’s a better scorer than Varejao, and he can put strain on the Cavs’ limited post defense by dragging Varejao out to the mid-range, opening things up for the Magic’s wings to drive. I’m also excited to see how Love fairs against Vucevic on the boards, but Vucci Mane is a great foil for Varejao overall, and I enjoy watching these two battle.

Q: What are the expectations for this Cavs team? Are they in a position to get all the way to the Finals? 

A: I definitely think that’s the expectation in Cleveland. I get the feeling that many fans are riding high on the “Championship or bust!” ideal, which is exciting, but also potentially dangerous. I certainly think they have the talent to be able to make the Finals, for sure. I’m a little bit higher on the Eastern Conference than many are, and I think the picture is a little more murky than the idea that it’s Cleveland, Chicago, and a trash heap. However, Irving, Love, and LeBron is a legitimately great core, and the Cavs have a lot of exciting role players who should make this team really, really good.

I definitely think they can get to the Finals, but once there I’m quite skeptical that they can actually win a title. Even with a loaded roster, they’re still lacking in certain areas (forward depth and rim protection, to name two), they have a first-time NBA head coach, and they are relying heavily on Varejao, Irving, and Mike Miller to stay healthy. I think they have the chance to get to a Finals, but once there, I’m very, very worried about how they match up with San Antonio, Oklahoma City, or even the Clippers, who all have loads of playoff experience, deep rosters, and experienced and good head coaches.