James, Love and Irving expected to take franchise all the way to the top…
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NBA Season Preview 2014/15 Indiana Pacers
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are the favourites to win an NBA championship next season, but will they be able to live up to expectations after LeBron James’ return?
The Cavs ended with a 33-49 regular season record which left them five games adrift of the playoffs. With all the changes and question marks throughout the year, they were arguably distracted from the main goal, and their indifferent form which saw them go 5-5 to end the season ultimately cost them.
Luol Deng has been and gone while the inconsistent youngsters are a year wiser, and coupled with their luck in the lottery and impressive moves in free agency, they are a completely different outfit this season.
Nevertheless, they will still be kicking themselves that they weren’t able to emerge in the top eight last year in a weak Eastern Conference, and after sacrificing their No.1 pick in the Draft, it remains to be seen what they can achieve this year.
Can LeBron James and his new teammates gel on both ends of the court to deliver a championship?
Putting James, Irving and Love on the same team ultimately seems like fantasy basketball, but the Cavs have managed to piece it all together. Add role players such as Dion Waiters, Shawn Marion, James Jones, Mike Miller, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao to the equation, and you have a well rounded and deep roster to contend with.
However, there are three big question marks looming over Cleveland when all the glitz and glamour of the situation is taken away. Firstly, how will new coach David Blatt adjust and adapt to the NBA after years of coaching in Europe? If he figures it out immediately, then that is the first test passed for the Cavs.
Secondly, will James, Irving and Love in particular find chemistry in their first season together and sufficiently involve others when needed? The blueprint for the two-time NBA champion is there after his years with the Miami Heat, but this will be the first time that either Irving or Love will make the playoffs.
Thirdly, what will the Cavs be like on defense? There is no denying that they look frankly ridiculous on the offensive end of the court, but experts have doubts over how good their defense will be. General manager David Griffin will probably look to add a rim-protector before the deadline, but it’s going to need a collective effort if the Cavs want to win a championship.
On paper, the Cavs look a safe bet to represent the East in the NBA Finals 2014/15. However, there are so many variables that could go against them in the early part of the season in particular which could well change the mood if things don’t go the way as planned.
With Paul George injured, the Heat recovering from losing their best player and question marks over Derrick Rose’s ability to return to an MVP level, it appears as though the door is well and truly open for the Cavaliers to burst through.
Toronto, Washington and Charlotte will all be in contention for the top spots, but ultimately, it is Cleveland that everyone is picking for the Finals. The Bulls will arguably be their biggest competition having added great depth this off-season, and a Eastern Conference Finals clash with them looks a likely bet.
Whether or not the Cavs will have gelled enough to beat the best the West has to offer remains to be seen, but James and Co. will undoubtedly be involved at the business end of the season although my pick will be the Bulls to advance as this year is their window before the Cavs become more familiar with one another and therefore more dangerous.