When LeBron James left the Miami Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he promised one thing… to bring a championship back to the city of Cleveland.
And while those aspirations resulted in an upset in last year’s NBA Finals against a sharpshooting Golden State Warriors squad, nothing is stopping James and the Cavaliers in their second attempt at bringing home the gold.
Here are a few reasons why the Cavaliers title hopes are higher than ever.
They’re finally Healthy
During the postseason, the Cavaliers lost two superstars due to injury. Kevin Love’s injury happened in a first round matchup against the Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving’s knee injury happened in the moment it mattered most — the NBA Finals.
While Irving’s backup, Matthew Dellavedova, was able to step right in and provide a spark on both ends of the court, Stephen Curry was just too much for the second unit guard. If Irving was able to at least stay on the floor during the Finals, the result might not have been the same. Both Irving and Love would have given James the assistance needed to power past the Warriors for the trophy. Although both superstars aren’t fully healthy yet, once they are, the Cavaliers will become favorites instantly.
It’s difficult to replace two stars capable of scoring 20 or more on any given night. If health isn’t an issue, be aware…very aware.
As the two stars were ailing, the team looked for others to step up alongside King James. While everyone did enough to get them to the Finals, It was Tristan Thompson who really fulfilled the part. He grabbed boards, finished around the basket but more importantly; he protected the paint with a vengeance. Unfortunately, Thompson and the Cavaliers haven’t been able to agree on the right contraction extension. According to several reports, Thompson desires a contract worth up to $94 million and the Cavaliers are supposedly only offering $80 million through five years.
Even though the situation exists, Thompson will remain apart of the Cavaliers this season and that’s always a plus. He is a bonafide game changer and will help the Cavaliers this season whether he’s apart of the future beyond this season or not.
LeBron James is Hungry
Who the hell wants to go against a hungry King James? We’ve all seen him angry and the extremes his game goes to in order to accomplish something. Triple doubles, 50-point games, tenacious defense, phenomenal playmaking — all things James presents when hungry.
There is no cruise control this season; it’s only full throttle until the championship trophy is safely secured in the Quicken Loans Arena. James seems to be hungry and while he doesn’t expect to do everything for the Cavaliers this season, when the postseason comes, expect to experience James hungrier than ever. He’s already mentioned having nightmares of losing and defeat is something he doesn’t want to be involved with.
The Eastern Conference is not
Even if no one thinks the Cavaliers can necessarily “win” the NBA Championship, it doesn’t stop them from competing for it — after all, they are an Eastern Conference team.
Each year, both conferences become more competitive but inevitably the East is still weak. There isn’t an opposing team that can stop the Cavaliers from going on the Finals. As it looks this season, the best teams in the East are the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, and Washington Wizards. Although those teams are improving rapidly and worthy of at least competing, all of them fear a matchup against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. The yellow brick road to the NBA Finals should be a breeze.
There’s more than enough experience
Although the Cavaliers’ superstars were elite in talent, as a whole unit, they heavily lacked experience. Before James arrived, the Cavaliers failed to reach the playoffs since the last time James was in Cleveland.
Kevin Love played with the Minnesota Timberwolves for several seasons but never reached the postseason. Irving also played for the Cavaliers for a few years and never competed in the playoffs — well last season was more than enough experience. As a unit the team understands each other’s strengths and weaknesses and things will likely flow smoother than last season. Experience is a hell of a thing to have and each member of the Cavaliers has it.