The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t the type of team to be boisterous even when confident. Nonetheless, if someone were to ask the Cavs front office who they believed they had the best chance of defeating in the first round of the upcoming NBA Playoffs, they would more than likely respond with the Brooklyn Nets.
“No one inside the organization would say this publicly,” says cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor, “and they shouldn’t. But multiple people I’ve spoken to recently are privately hoping for a Brooklyn matchup.”
That the Cavs would want to face the Nets following the departure of All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving makes sense on a surface-level. Nonetheless, considering the defensive prowess of their wings and frontcourt players, Cleveland may want to consider their preferred first-round matchup.
Although the star backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland are difficult to stop on any night, the Nets have a bevy of high-quality defenders in the backcourt, including Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith.
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When it comes to slowing down players like Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert, the Nets have a number of forwards that should be up to the task, such Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. Even when thinking about the efficient production of Jarrett Allen on offensive, the Cavs will have to consider the defensive ability of Nic Claxton, a player who has often been mentioned among the Defensive Player of the Year candidates this season.
Their best hope of making it past the first round could still be the Nets. But if that’s their easiest test, then that fact may not bode well for the Cleveland looking forward.