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LeBron James and The Cavaliers Can Pick Their Playoff Opponent

NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 24:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks with Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena on March 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Cavaliers defeated the Hornets 105-92.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  v  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Stephen BrotherstonAnalyst IApril 6, 2010

LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers have clinched first overall in the NBA this season with two weeks to go before the playoffs start. And such success comes with perks.

As reported at Cleveland.com, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown says, "It’s a luxury to be able to rest players so we’re going to want to do that.”

And LeBron James has confirmed that he’s planning to take some time off to let his sore elbow and other minor injuries heal for the playoffs.

But how Mike Brown decides to use his starters and when LeBron James decides to sit out games could have a big impact on who makes or misses this season’s playoffs. And more importantly, in a race this close, the Cavaliers can have a huge impact on who they will face in the first round.

The eighth place Toronto Raptors hold a slim one-game lead over the ninth place Chicago Bulls. And while Cleveland may be secure in first, The Race For Eighth Isn’t Over.

The Raptors travel to Cleveland Tuesday to face the Cavs in Mike Brown’s first opportunity to rest LeBron and his starters. Then the Cavaliers travel to Chicago on Thursday.

If Mike Brown plays his starters against one of these opponents but not the other, it could be taken as a clear sign as to which team he would rather face in the playoffs.

By playing his starters against Toronto, he hands Chicago the chance to be tied or ahead of the Raptors in the standings when the Cavs arrive in the windy city.

Brown would then have the chance to temporarily gift the Bulls eighth place.

But if Mike Brown rests his starters on Tuesday and then plays them on Thursday, he could all but end Chicago’s post-season hopes.

Of course this assumes that Toronto and Chicago aren’t up to the challenge of beating Cleveland’s starters in a virtual scrimmage game.

It also assumes Cleveland’s second string won’t just lay a beating on the Raptors and the Bulls just to prove a point.

But Mike Brown and the Cavaliers are in a position to pick who they would like to face in the first round. And even if it looks like they have no real reason to care, they might just decide to do it anyway.

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