Happy Tuesday, WFNY!
Well, last week in this place I tried to spin some optimism with the Cleveland Browns and we saw how that turned out. Cleveland is a Browns town and everyone wants to talk about the Browns all the time, but at this point, I think I need to take a few weeks off talking about them. It’s just such a frustrating franchise to root for and to write about.
Instead, with Cavaliers media day happening yesterday, it seems appropriate to turn our attention to basketball season.
What do we make of the 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers? It’s a complicated question. We know the Cavaliers are going to be a very different team from what we saw last season. I think it’s safe to say the Cavaliers will be an even deeper team than last year’s team.
I mean, let’s take a look at the roster as it stands right now:
That doesn’t even include Dwyane Wade. But we all know Wade is totally going to play for the Cavs this season, right? So then, we should try to guess what the 15 man roster will look like.
- LeBron James
- Kevin Love
- Isaiah Thomas
- JR Smith
- Tristan Thompson
- Dwyane Wade
- Derrick Rose
- Channing Frye
- Jae Crowder
- Richard Jefferson
- Kyle Korver
- Jeff Green
- Iman Shumpert
- Cedi Osman
- Ante Zizic
Yes, that leaves Jose Calderon, Kay Felder, and Edy Tavares off the team. Oh, no Kendrick Perkins, either, who was something of a surprise name on the training camp roster. It’s possible the Cavaliers could make a different move to make room for Wade and Calderon. But look at that depth. Outside of Osman and Zizic, these are all players who have had varying degrees of success playing very meaningful minutes.
There’s no question the team is going to miss Kyrie Irving’s offense, particularly in the postseason. I think the Cavaliers will be a better regular season team than last year’s team, though. In fact, if the Golden State Warriors didn’t exist, I would think this would be one of the craziest rosters we’ve seen.
Of course, that’s the crux of the issue. The Golden State Warriors do exist. And while I think this Cavs team has potential to be really good and a lot of fun to watch, I’m not very confident it’s better than the Warriors. Especially not in the postseason, when the bench shrinks and depth doesn’t matter as much.
If we call LeBron and Kevin Durant a push1, the three next-best players on the floor will all play for Golden State. I think the Cavaliers will have the ability to better defend the Warriors than what we saw last year, but I’m skeptical that it will be enough to change the outcome if the Warriors are at full strength.
As for the Eastern Conference, there are certainly those who think the Boston Celtics did enough to surpass Cleveland as the best team in the conference. It’s certainly possible. With Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, etc, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in Boston. But I just don’t feel Boston is quite ready to supplant the experience and depth of the Cavaliers.
In fact, I don’t even believe the Celtics are the top challenger to the Cavaliers. I think the Toronto Raptors are still the team most capable of giving the Cavs problems, with the Washington Wizards right there. The Milwaukee Bucks remain an interesting team as well, and if they could stay healthy, they could surprise a lot of people in the East.
The Raptors are a team many are overlooking, but the addition of CJ Miles gives them an interesting look. They may not be as deep as other teams, but a starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, CJ Miles, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas is intriguing to me. Over the last three years, the Raptors are the only Eastern Conference team to put even the tiniest sliver of doubt into my mind, and I still think when healthy they can do things to bother the Cavaliers that the Celtics cannot.
In all honesty, though, I still view the East as Cleveland’s to lose. Last year, the regular season was a trying one. The team didn’t always seem the most focused, there always seemed to be at least one injury, and the results weren’t always what we expected. This season, I expect the regular season to be a little more fun. I think we will see a more focused team and it starts with a seemingly rejuvenated LeBron James.
Anyone who watched anything from media day yesterday saw a slightly different LeBron. All offseason LeBron has vigorously posted his workouts to social media, and in both words and actions, LeBron looks more energized than we’ve seen in previous offseasons. A lot has changed with the Cavaliers and while few are willing to say the Cavaliers are definitively better off without Kyrie Irving, the fact is this presents an opportunity for the Cavaliers to change some things about their dynamics both on and off the court. The Cavaliers have a chance to be a more defensive team than what we’ve seen the last couple of years. The offense can flow a little more freely without the push and pull of LeBron and Kyrie.
It’s far too early to worry too much about the ultimate outcome of this upcoming season and whether or not the Cavaliers did enough to close the gap on the Warriors. For now, I prefer to just relish the fact that basketball is right around the corner and for the first time in a few years, I don’t know how the team is going to look. There’s a genuine excitement about that and the opportunity for change. I can’t wait for the season to start.
- Of course I side with Team LeBron here, but for the sake of presenting some sense of objectivity, I’m willing to allow this to be a push. [↩]