Is the King’s Court Ready to Repeat? Why the Cavaliers Could be on the Brink of a Dynasty
After a long 50+ year curse, the city of Cleveland, Ohio can finally call themselves champions once again! After coming back from a 3-1 deficit to Golden State in the Finals, the Cavaliers were able to capture their first ever championship. The historic comeback further validated LeBron’s decision to come home, and created a memory that Ohio natives will talk about for the rest of time. Now the Cavs are less than a day away from starting their repeat campaign, but the road to a back-to-back championship will be harder than ever.
Challenges to the Throne
LeBron James has dominated the Eastern Conference for the last six years, and, barring any surprises, it seems like he’ll continue to reign for a seventh. However, his path to the finals won’t be the same cake walk that it has been in years’ past because a lot of teams in the East have made significant improvements to their rosters. Look, the NBA isn’t the NFL, where upsets and Cinderella teams are more common, especially with the growing popularity of these super teams. Nine times out of ten, the better team wins the series. However, if the Cavs are challenged in the playoffs this year (unlike last year), then a worn out Cavs team could get upset in the finals.
Boston, Toronto, Indiana, and New York all got better this off-season. I’m also interested to see how good Detroit looks with a full season of Stan Van Gundy coaching up the players that they added halfway through last season. Even though the Cavs swept them in the first round last year, the Pistons didn’t make it easy. If the Knicks stay healthy, they can be an issue in the playoffs as well because you have to believe that Carmelo Anthony will play his hardest if he matches up with LeBron in the playoffs.
In the Western Conference, well you know, the whole Kevin Durant on the Warriors thing. I don’t think I need to explain how a 73-9 team that led the Cavs 3-1 in the Finals adding the second best player in the league will be a problem, so I won’t. Moving on.
Even if we don’t get the rubber match between the Cavs and the Warriors, I still believe the Spurs are another team that can win it all. Tim Duncan’s departure does hurt their chances, but the Spurs are the one team that can pull it off, so I will give them the respect they deserve. With that being said…
Why the Crown Stays in Cleveland
Despite the fact that the east will be harder, and the Warriors have added Durant, I still believe that the Cavs, if healthy, will repeat as champions this year. The east got a lot better this year, but the Cavaliers are still head and shoulders above any other team in the east. I still don’t believe in Toronto even though they pushed the Cleveland to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, so I’ll list them as a threat. Al Horford does take the Celtics to that next step as a contender, but they still are another All-Star or two away from being real threats. Still, they can cause problems. Indiana has a lot of new pieces, so chemistry might be of concern this year, but they will be a threat. The east has a lot of really good teams, but the Cavs are still the only great one.
In the west, I don’t think the Spurs can beat them strictly based on what I saw from LaMarcus Aldridge last year. With Duncan gone, Aldridge MUST be one the best players on the floor in order for the Spurs to win. If he chokes the way he did against the Thunder last year, the Spurs stand no chance. I’m not saying he will, but I need him to prove it to me first before I’m ready to say that he won’t.
If you didn’t read my last article on why I think Kyrie Irving will win MVP this year, stop, open a new tab, and read that first real quick before reading the rest of this. Back? Ok great, let’s continue. A monster year from Kyrie is another reason why I think the Cavs will win this year. As LeBron gets older, he’s going to need Kyrie to start becoming an MVP caliber player in his own right to help with the burden of winning more championships. That started last year in the playoffs when Kyrie was finally able to get back into form after coming off the knee injury. I believe the trend continues into this year, with a monster year from the Cleveland point guard. Irving’s year will make the Cavs that much more deadly, and if the supporting cast also takes the next step, I don’t see a team in the NBA that can beat them.
Even though the Warriors added Durant, they didn’t improve their frontcourt, which is where they lost the Finals last year. Everyone points to the suspension of Draymond Green in Game 5 as the biggest reason why the Warriors lost the series, but Draymond was there for Games 6 and 7, and played really well in Game 7. The biggest loss was Andrew Bogut, who got hurt at the end of Game 5. Without any rim protection, Irving and James were able to use their strength, speed, handles, and athleticism to create highways to the basket every trip down the floor, and the Warriors had nothing that could stop it.
Now, obviously the Warriors are going to be a lot harder to guard by adding Durant, especially after letting go of Harrison Barnes who was horrible in the NBA Finals. But offense was never the Warriors' problem, and their lack of ability to stop Kyrie and LeBron from getting easy buckets every trip is still going to be an issue. If I’m the Cavs, the game plan doesn’t change. Pick and roll every time down the floor, switching Steph Curry onto Kyrie, and Durant onto LeBron, who will use his strength to wear Durant down in a seven game series. Again, going to my earlier point, Irving’s monster year will allow LeBron to have a lot more energy coming into what would be his seventh straight Finals appearance. The Warriors were able to add Zaza Pachulia, but I don’t think it’ll be enough, especially after losing all of their bigs from last year.
The Cavs should be in the Finals for the third year in a row, LeBron’s 7th consecutive, and unless the Warriors or Spurs make another move, I don’t think any team has enough to stop the Cavaliers from winning back-to-back championships. LeBron will get his fourth ring, creeping him closer and closer to the “ghosts” that he’s been chasing his whole career. In order to win, Kyrie will have to have another Finals MVP worthy performance, and when he does, his confidence in himself will grow even more going into next season. I think the Cavs could have a dynasty on their hands if the NBA landscape doesn’t drastically change in the next few years. If that happens, I think the people of Cleveland will say the 52 year wait was worth every second.