NBA executive prefers Tom Thibodeau to J.B. Bickerstaff but picks Cavs to beat Knicks in 7 games

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With the first-round playoff series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks set to begin in just a couple days, fans and experts alike are comparing the two teams to try to predict who will win the series.

According to one NBA executive, the Knicks have the upper hand when it comes to head coaches Tom Thibodeau and J.B. Bickerstaff. However, that same executive still has the Cavs winning the series over the Knicks.

Two other important factors the executive mentioned were the health statuses of Cavs wing Isaac Okoro and Knicks forward Julius Randle. Both have missed time recently due to injuries.

“Cleveland,” the executive said, according to Sam Amick, Darnell Mayberry and Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “I love their rim protection, with their four/five combination. Both (players) protect the rim. (Third-year Cavs wing Isaac) Okoro (who missed the last six games of the regular season with a back problem) — they’re gonna miss him, because they need that other defender, that real tough, hard-nosed defender.

“But (Cleveland) has a really good frontline and an All-Star backcourt offensively. I think that’s a good combination. I have respect for New York. It’s not that the Knicks can’t win the series — they could. But I like Cleveland. The only reason I’d give New York a little edge at all is the coaching factor. If you’re gonna match up a series and have Bickerstaff versus Thibodeau, I’ll take Thibodeau. But I’ll go with Cleveland. I’m gonna say it’ll be a seven-game series. I think it’s that close. I think that’s one of the most interesting first-round series in the entire league. I’m assuming (Randle) is good (to play). If he’s not good, then it’s not much of a series, I don’t think. He has to be right.”

As the executive indicates, there are a lot of exciting factors to consider. The level of competition in this series is one of the main reasons why it might be the best bout in the first round of the Eastern Conference bracket.

While the Cavs are surely ecstatic to be in the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James decided to leave the franchise in 2018, simply getting into the playoffs is not nearly enough. The Cavs are the No. 4 seed in the conference, and they should fully expect to play beyond the first round.

Still, that is easier said than done, and the Knicks are in no way pushovers. Aside from Randle, who is reportedly targeting a return for Game 1 of the series, the team will also rely heavily on Jalen Brunson.

Brunson was a major reason why the Dallas Mavericks advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals last season before losing to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors.

He will look to build off of that postseason success with his current team.

As for the Cavs, the young and talented core will likely lean heavily on players like Donovan Mitchell and Danny Green. Their playoff experiences will hopefully be enough to make up for the relative youth and lack of experience elsewhere on the roster.

Game 1 of the series is set to get underway on Saturday at 6 p.m. EST.

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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Cavaliers Nation.