Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview: Can LeBron James Lead Cavs to 2016 NBA Championship?
It's 'championship or bust' for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season.
Cleveland hasn't won a major sports title since 1964, but odds makers everywhere have pinned them the favorites to win it all this season. The Cavaliers won the Eastern Conference last year, but fell to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers still have the best player in the world, LeBron James, but they haven't looked very impressive this preseason. The New York Knicks are 4-2 this preseason, so, take that for what it's worth. The Cavaliers recently re-signed forward Tristan Thompson to a five year deal worth more than $80 million. They have almost the same roster as last season when they finished as the No. 2 seed in the East behind only the Atlanta Hawks.
James has owned the East in his career. A James-led team has won the Eastern Conference the last five consecutive seasons. There's no doubt that the Cavaliers are the favorites to win it all this year, but will they?
Brining back Kevin Love and Thompson will certainly help their frontcourt, but many NBA fans believe the Cavaliers invested too much in their starters this offseason. Love and Thompson are scheduled to make more than $200 million with the Cavaliers, and it doesn't end there. Kyrie Irving still has more than $90 million left on his contract, and Iman Shumpert signed a deal worth $40 million. Of course James will get top dollar because of the unbelievable player that he is.
With so much guaranteed money going towards their starting lineup, it is fair to be somewhat concerned with the Cavaliers bench production. Last season the Cavaliers ranked dead last in bench scoring per game.
Other teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards will be in the mix as usual, but it's unlikely they will be able to take down the Cavaliers in the playoffs. The Bulls are 0-4 against James in the postseason, and Derrick Rose is always a huge question mark to stay healthy. The Wizards and Raptors have good squads, but the only team in the East that may give the Cavaliers a run is the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks finished last regular season as the No. 1 seed, but they were swept by the Cavaliers in the conference finals.
As much criticism as J.R. Smith gets, he can hit perimeter shots. The addition of Smith from the Knicks last year before the NBA trade deadline proved to be a very valuable one. Smith went on to lead the Cavaliers in perimeter shots made during he postseason.
The Cavaliers should once again return to finals with James making his seventh career championship appearance. With the Cleveland Indians season over, and the Cleveland Browns playing like, well, the Browns, the Cavaliers are the only hope to end the 1964 championship drought in the near future.
Follow Damon Salvadore on Twitter @DamonSalvadore1
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