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As promised earlier in the week, here are the previews for both Cody Zeller’s Charlotte Hornets and Noah Vonleh’s Portland Trail Blazers. I’ll give my thoughts on what you can expect from both of them during their first round matchups and also give a roster breakdown of both their team and the opposing team. And as always I’ll go out on a limb and actually predict their stats for that series just to see how close or how far off I end up being afterward. I hope you enjoy and look forward to more playoff coverage both on this blog and on Twitter for as long as a former Indiana Hoosier is still playing in the playoffs. Now let’s break down these series:
Eastern Conference 1st Round: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs. (3) Miami Heat
Regular Season Series: Tied 2-2
Playoff Series: 0-0 (1st game is Sunday at 5:30pm EST)
Probable Starting Lineups:
C – Cody Zeller: 8.7ppg (52.9% FG/10.0% 3FG/75.4% FT), 6.2rpg, 1.0apg
PF – Marvin Williams: 11.7ppg (45.2% FG/40.2% 3FG/83.3% FT), 6.4rpg, 1.4apg
SF – Nicolas Batum: 14.9ppg (42.6% FG/34.8% 3FG/84.9% FT), 6.1rpg, 5.8apg
SG – Courtney Lee: 9.6ppg (45.4% FG/37.8% 3FG/83.9% FT), 2.6rpg, 1.7apg
PG – Kemba Walker: 20.9ppg (42.7% FG/37.1% 3FG/84.7% FT), 4.4rpg, 5.2apg
Key Bench Players – Al Jefferson (12.0ppg, 6.4rpg), Jeremy Lin (11.7ppg), Jeremy Lamb (8.8ppg), Frank Kaminsky (7.5ppg)
C – Hassan Whiteside: 14.2ppg (60.6% FG/65.0% FT), 11.8rpg, 0.4apg, 3.7bpg
F – Joe Johnson: 12.2ppg (43.9% FG/38.3% 3FG/83.1% FT), 3.6rpg, 3.9apg
F – Luol Deng: 12.3ppg (45.5% FG/34.4% 3FG/75.5% FT), 6.0rpg, 1.9apg
SG – Dwyane Wade: 19.0ppg (45.6% FG/15.9% 3FG/79.3% FT), 4.1rpg, 4.6apg
PG – Goran Dragic: 14.1ppg (47.7% FG/31.2% 3FG/72.7% FT), 3.8rpg, 5.8apg
Key Bench Players – Justice Winslow (6.4ppg, 5.2rpg), Josh Richardson (6.6ppg, 46.1% 3FG), Gerald Green (8.9ppg), Amar’e Stoudemire (5.8ppg)
What To Expect:
Cody Zeller is going to have his hands full as his primary mission this series is to prevent Hassan Whiteside from being an offensive factor.
While defending Whiteside will be a challenge, it could have been worse as Zeller would have guarded Chris Bosh if he was available. Bosh presented a big problem for Zeller as the perennial All-Star is able to draw bigger defenders out of the paint because of his lethal mid-range game and above average three-point shooting.
Whiteside won’t move very far from the post except to set screens, which means Zeller can stay close to the basket and help guard the rim against one of the better slashing teams in the NBA. His help defense will be a necessity on Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic drives.
The key for Zeller during this series will be to stay out of foul trouble. The former Hoosier has done a better job lately of avoiding fouls but still ended the season with a career-high 2.8 fouls per game. The Hornets could still beat the Heat by simply outshooting them, but when the shots don’t fall Charlotte cannot afford to have Zeller on the bench with foul trouble.
Because so much will be asked of Zeller defensively, I expect Hornets’ Head Coach Steve Clifford to consistently switch Zeller in and out with Al Jefferson for offensive and defensive situations. That doesn’t mean Zeller won’t score during this series but expect no more than four or five shots per game.
Zeller won’t produce flashy numbers during this series but his performance will be one of the few main things that could decide who wins this series.
Stat Predictions: 6.5ppg, 6.1rpg, 0.83spg, 1.50 bpg, 47% FG, 28.3mpg
Western Conference 1st Round: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (4) Los Angeles Clippers
Regular Season Series: Clippers won 3-1
Playoff Series: 0-0 (1st game is Sunday at 10:30pm)
Probable Starting Lineups:
Portland Trail Blazers:
C – Mason Plumlee: 9.1ppg (51.6% FG/64.2% FT), 7.7rpg, 2.8apg
F – Al-Farouq Aminu: 10.2ppg (41.6%/36.1% 3FG/73.7% FT), 6.1rpg, 1.7apg
F – Maurice Harkless: 6.4ppg (47.4% FG/27.9% 3FG/62.2% FT), 3.6rpg, 0.9apg
SG – C.J. McCollum: 20.8ppg (44.8% FG/41.7% 3FG/82.7% FT), 3.2rpg, 4.3apg, 1.2spg
PG – Damian Lillard: 25.1ppg (41.9% FG/37.5% 3FG/89.2% FT), 4.0rpg, 6.8apg
Key Bench Players – Noah Vonleh (3.6ppg, 3.9rpg), Ed Davis (6.5ppg, 7.4rpg, 61.1% FG), Gerald Henderson (8.7ppg), Allen Crabbe (10.3ppg, 39.4% 3FG)
Los Angeles Clippers:
C – DeAndre Jordan: 12.7ppg (70.3% FG/43.0% FT), 13.8rpg, 1.2apg, 2.3bpg
PF – Blake Griffin: 21.4ppg (49.9% FG/72.7% FT), 8.4rpg, 4.9apg
SF – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: 3.1ppg (45.4% FG/52.6% FT), 2.3rpg, 0.4apg
SG – J.J. Redick: 16.3ppg (48.0% FG/47.5% 3FG/88.8% FT), 1.9rpg, 1.4apg
PG – Chris Paul: 19.5ppg (46.2% FG/37.1% 3FG/89.6% FT), 4.2rpg, 10.0apg, 2.1spg
Key Bench Players – Jamal Crawford (14.2ppg), Jeff Green (11.7ppg, 4.2rpg), Wesley Johnson (6.9ppg), Austin Rivers (8.9ppg), Cole Aldrich (5.5ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.1bpg)
What To Expect:
Noah Vonleh has ended up playing even less than I expected at the end of the season, and some things I’ve read are suggesting he may only see the court during these playoffs if any of the games end up being blowouts.
However, if there was ever a matchup that would require Vonleh to play more than expected it would be against the Clippers. Against the frontcourt duo of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, I expect multiple games where the Trail Blazers’ big men get in foul trouble and Head Coach Terry Stotts will need to rely on Vonleh for spot minutes.
If Vonleh does find himself in that situation, he’ll have a prime opportunity to show the coaching staff that he’s improving. If he can hit a three-pointer early, it would force either Griffin or Jordan to leave the paint to guard him, leaving driving lanes for Damian Lillard to slash and kick out.
Of course, it’s very possible this situation never happens in this series. But there’s a better chance of Vonleh playing meaningful playoff minutes than most people might think.
Stat Predictions: 1.5ppg, 2.4rpg, 0.33 bpg, 37% FG, 5.7mpg