The Cleveland Cavaliers are finally champions. LeBron James lived up to his promise, shutting up anyone else who needed quieting. Kyrie Irving showed how big of a player he is. Kevin Love showed there’s more to him than offense. Tyronn Lue had a dreamy ascent last season. What do the Cavs even have to play for anymore?
After a summer of celebrating, the Cavaliers enter next season with the same goal as before: Becoming NBA champions. But they’re going to be doing it from a completely different place. No longer with a burning burden of proof limiting them and sitting on their shoulders. LeBron the GM? Irving the bad defender and on court problem? Overpaid Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson? Scheming Lue? It’s all forgotten. Championships help wipe everything clean, and a slightly changed Cavaliers team heads into the season after proving the Golden State Warriors are vulnerable.
The core isn’t fully back yet. J.R. Smith is probably going to be re-signed, but for now, he’s doing the same thing he did last year: Waiting for someone to offer him more money than anyone is willing to pay him. Maybe he deserves more money, maybe not. But at this point in the offseason-preseason, the kind of money he’s dreaming of just isn’t going to be heading his way. LeBron James isn’t signed either, but that’s a formality, and he’s not going anywhere else. Not this season.
Acquisitions: Chris Andersen, Kay Felder, Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Departures: Matthew Dellavedova, Timofey Mozgov, Dhantay Jones
The premise is going to be the same as before. James and Irving as the stars, Love as someone who glides between worlds and appreciations levels, Thompson as the guy who does a lot without scoring while improving as a defender, and everyone else does little things: Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson and the others. The Cavaliers are a bit older than before, and elevating someone like Jordan McRae, a Summer League legend, to a level that he can become a nightly contributor, and the same goes for Felder out of Oakland, will be a huge help. Staying basically the same isn’t terrible, but the Cavaliers aren’t perfect.
Best Case Scenario
As we saw last year, a championship is often decided on developments during the finals series itself. However, making it is rarely a mistake. The Cavaliers winning the East despite threats from the Raptors and Celtics, with another comfortable playoff, should be the standard. LeBron James staying healthy, Kevin Love doing more than corner 3’s, Thompson adding something to his game and Lue managing to bring out the most from a long list of role players and veterans is the best they can hope for. No injuries, but more than everything, James not letting age and the enormous wear & tear on his body start getting to him. If this means a little more rest in the regular season, the Cavaliers will be fine with it, as long as Irving and Love carry the load.
Worst Case Scenario
Anything that’s not a final, but really, realizing it’s it for James. His numbers continues to take a small decline during the regular season, and in my opinion, besides the suspension to Draymond Green, and the Warriors choking up in the face of terrific performances and defense, suddenly getting three days between games was the biggest factor, allowing Jame the rest his body needs at this point of his career. He can still carry a team on his back, but it’s getting more and more difficult. James will be 32 in December, and a less than elite season for him will mean some serious thinking by the front office, besides the disappointment of losing a championship.