NBA Eastern Conference Preview: No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers

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Updated: October 28, 2014
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Last season: 33-49

Projected record: 54-28

It’ s not common to see a team that missed the playoffs the year before, all of a sudden have championship aspirations. But when a player as great as LeBron James joins the roster, it makes plenty of sense.

James made the decision during the offseason to rejoin the Cavaliers, and head back to his hometown. Cleveland hasn’t had a winning record since James left back in 2010. They’ve been in misery over the past four seasons, staring up at James’ Miami Heat from near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

Over the course of those four seasons, the Cavaliers were awarded a few first overall draft choices – three to be exact. They were able to draft point guard Kyrie Irving in 2011 – who they planned to be the centerpiece of their franchise – Dion Waiters fourth overall in 2012, Anthony Bennett in 2013, and Andrew Wiggins in 2014.

Cleveland just knew they had the building blocks to work their way back to the top. But, little did they know, James was on his way back as well.

This offseason they traded Wiggins and Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star Kevin Love. He no longer wanted to be in Minnesota, and the Timberwolves found a deal that worked out in their favor.

Now with James, Love, Irving and Waiters, the Cavaliers have formed one of the best young rosters in the NBA.

 

What they have going for them

It will take a little time for all of these players to start gelling with one another, but I don’t believe it will take too long. This isn’t like when James first went to Miami. Dwyane Wade was the face of the Heat when James first arrived, and he was a champion and superstar in his own right. It took a while for Wade to surrender to James as being “the man” on the team.

I don’t believe that will be the case with this young Cleveland team. As good as Irving is as a point guard, he hasn’t won in this league yet. Even though Love has consistently put up great numbers during his career, he hasn’t won in this league yet either. But James; he has two championships and five trips to the NBA Finals on his resume.

This roster will submit to James, and allow him to immediately take over as the leader of this team. And not only will he put up his normal numbers, but he will get the best out of Irving and will turn Love – who is a double-double machine – into a winner.

And I think this will be a breakout season for Irving. He has been playing lights out here lately. He was the MVP of the All-Star game last season, and turned around and won MVP of the FIBA World Cup basketball tournament this summer. He has shown that he can be a stud in this league, and James will help him in his maturation process.

They also have Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson on the roster, which will make the Cavaliers one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA.

 

Key offseason additions

Due to the lack of playoff experience on last year’s roster, the Cavaliers decided to bring in some veteran help. They signed Shawn Marion, who has spent the last five years of his career with the Dallas Mavericks, to a one-year deal, hoping he can help them in their pursuit of a title this season.

They were also able to sign shooters Mike Miller and James Jones, two players who have played alongside LeBron in Miami – and were both a part of the two championships the Heat won during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. And speaking of shooters, they drafted Joe Harris out of the University of Virginia – someone who can also stretch the defense.

 

Outlook

The Cavaliers will have huge expectations this season, but that’s what happens when a player like LeBron comes to town. It will be interesting to see how quickly the younger players, like Irving and Waiters, can buy into what head coach David Blatt has in-store.

With limited playoff experience across their roster, and a new head coach, this won’t be an easy process for the Cavaliers. But sometimes in the NBA, talent speaks for itself. With LeBron, Irving and Love on one roster, it’s almost impossible not to consider them championship contenders.

It will be close throughout, but I expect the Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls to compete for the first seed in the East all season long.

 

Projected starting five (Last season’s stats):

PG Kyrie Irving (20.8 ppg, 6.1 apg, 3.6 rpg)

SG Dion Waiters (15.9 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.8 rpg)

SF LeBron James (27.1 ppg, 6.4 apg, 6.9 rpg)

PF Kevin Love (26.1 ppg, 12.5 rpg)

C Anderson Varejao (8.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg)

 

Josiah Turner

Twitter: @JsiahSports

Photo Cred (Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

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