Now that we know the fate of Kevin Love, and will be without JR Smith for the first two games in the second round, the lineups that the Cavs put out will not look familiar to fans. Coach Blatt has already stated that players such as Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and Kendrick Perkins will be getting more minutes than they are accustomed to. The Cavs still have plenty of firepower and, if the coaching staff is willing to be creative, they can do things to create mismatches and take our next opponent out of their comfort zone. Here is a preview of five lineups that the Cavs may use to mix things up.
5. Kyrie Irving – J.R. Smith – Iman Shumpert – LeBron James – Tristan Thompson
Probably the most athletic lineup the Cavs could use this season would be this one. With Irving and Smith at the guards, Cleveland would keep shooting on the floor. Shumpert and James would be the lineup’s top defenders both able to guard wing players and James able to defend the 4. Tristan Thompson makes for a good offensive play while providing solid defense on the other end as well. Cleveland could use this small lineup to run the floor and stay active in the passing lanes for steals.
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4. Small Ball – Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, James Jones, LeBron James, Timofey Mozgov
If you want to space the floor and increase the pace of the game, this may be the lineup to do it with. These five guys provide ball handling, mid- and long-range shooting, speed, and rim protection. The weakness that this lineup could present is rebounding and post defense, although their speed should allow for quick rotations out of a double team, if needed. This lineup would have to be utilized situationally, and not likely for extended periods of time. Each of our potential opponents, Chicago and Milwaukee, have lineups that would enable James Jones to be hidden on the defensive end by matching him up with a spot up shooter, but those matchups wouldn’t likely last very long. Look for Coach Blatt to go small with LeBron at the 4 spot, surrounded by shooters, for very important stretched of the next series.
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3. Going Big – LeBron James, Iman Shumpert, James Jones, Kendrick Perkins, Timofey Mozgov
This lineup would be more of a reaction than a proactive measure. Specifically if we play Chicago, which features two physical and talented 7-footers, this lineup could be useful. It is probably our slowest lineup, but also our most physical. Mozgov and Perkins would be asked to cover Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah without a double team, and LeBron and Shumpert could switch between Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. James Jones would likely be matched up with either Mike Dunleavy or Nikola Mirotic. If you like free-flowing offense, this lineup is not for you. If you like hard screens, physical post defense, and stare downs, then you will enjoy this lineup.
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2. Defense First – Matthew Dellavedova – Iman Shumpert – LeBron James – Tristan Thompson – Timofey Mozgov
Not much to say other than this is easily Cleveland’s best defensive lineup. Not only are Delly, Shump, LeBron, Thompson, and Mozgov all solid one-on-one defenders, but they also have great court awareness, allowing them to read when to help on defense and force passes to the perimeter, where Delly and Shump can force some turnovers that will lead to fast-break opportunities for LeBron and Thompson.
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1. The Starters – Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov
Shumpert and Thompson are the most obvious choices as replacements for Smith and Love in the starting lineup. The loss of those two will definitely hurt floor spacing and overall shooting, but the additions of Shumpert and Thompson may give the Cavs their best defensive lineup. This lineup is not unfamiliar with each other either, so chemistry won’t be a problem. Having Mozgov and Thompson may clog the lane for Kyrie and LeBron to drive, but if they can force some turnovers, they should be able to outrun a frontcourt like Chicago’s.