*Photo Credit: thesportsdb.com
The Cleveland Cavaliers had one of the most interesting offseasons in the NBA. After an embarrassing 4-1 defeat to the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals, the future of the Lebron-era team hung in the balance. Interteam discord ripped through the media, rumors swirled that Lebron James was anxious to head west, and a new General Manager has taken the reins. Now the Cavs, with a rebuilt roster that nearly resembles two starting lineups, are looking to make a fourth straight finals appearance.
In what was a blockbuster NBA offseason, the Cavs’ most significant move was clearly the trade of their star point guard Kyrie Irving. Trade rumors began when it was leaked to the media that Irving was becoming extremely disillusioned with his role on the team, his relationship with Lebron James, and ostensibly the future of the team itself.
This was the subject of heated controversy for much of the summer and in late August, news suddenly broke that Irving was being traded to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 First Round Pick, and the Miami Heat’s 2020 Second-Round Pick.
Most NBA analysts say Cleveland was on the winning end of this deal, but that remains to be seen until we are at least halfway through the 2017-2018 season. Boston is also looking particularly strong after acquiring Gordon Hayward and drafting Jason Tatum.
On the Cavs, Kyrie Irving was a playmaking machine. It is well known that Irving is one of the most prolific finishers the game has ever seen. Irving is a highlight reel hog; his absence could greatly disrupt the efficiency of the Cavs’ offense, causing serious offensive reverberations for the Cavs in 2017-2018. For the 2016-2017 season, Irving was 11th in scoring, shot 40% from three, and shot just over 47% from the field.
On a more optimistic note, the Irving trade was a minor spike on the Cavs’ offseason richter scale. We cannot shrug off the fact that Cleveland acquired star point guard Isaiah Thomas; who was third in scoring last season, shooting just over 46% from the field. Additionally, Jae Crowder is one of the best role players in the league. On 18 minutes per game last season, he averaged 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 3 assists. He also shot an impressive 43% from downtown. Furthermore, the 2018 first-round pick could be an unexpected boon if the right cards fall.
Outside the trade, Cleveland made other significant acquisitions. They signed Dwyane Wade to a 1-year, $2.3 million deal after his buyout agreement with the Chicago Bulls. Last season, Wade averaged 18.3 points on 43.4% shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 60 games. For a player his age — especially after major knee operations — that is impressive, and bodes well for his potential impact on the Cavs’ roster. Additionally, Wade and James won two championships together in Miami and it is well known that they have very strong chemistry when playing together.
Another major signing was with one-time league MVP Derrick Rose. He agreed to a one-year, $2.1 million deal. This is making ears perk up around the league because, last season, D-Rose averaged 18 points per game on 47% shooting. He also averaged 3.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists. These were his best stats since the 2011-2012 season. Rose was dethroned from elite status after that season due to devastating knee injuries, but his stats show that he is clearly on the mend and could be a deadly role player for the Cavs.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, Isaiah Thomas is still recovering from a season-ending hip injury. The Cavs have announced that he is expected to return no sooner than January. During his absence, Cleveland has a healthy safety net as their roster has much greater depth than last season.
The Cavs have announced that they will be starting Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, Lebron James and Kevin Love. Off the bench they have major weapons to tap into as well: Kyle Korver is a three-point assassin; Tristan Thompson is a rebound machine; J.R. Smith is a versatile playmaker; Jose Calderon has a high basketball IQ; Iman Shumpert can heat up at will; Channing Frye is an inside-outside threat. Their bench is much deeper this year and some teams in the East would likely be content starting the Cavs’ bench each night.
Now, the big caveat in all of this is how delicate this roster is. At the end of the 2017-2018 season, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Jose Calderon, Iman Shumpert, Jeff Green, and Channing Frye can either opt out of their contracts or will become unrestricted free agents. In the event of a disastrous or unsatisfactory season, this could gut nearly the entire backbone of their roster. Cleveland might still be able to rebuild if they score a strong first-round Nets pick, but the sense of delicacy surrounding this season is palpable.
The Eastern Conference is still less competitive than the West, meaning an even stronger Cavaliers team should have no problem securing another division, as well as Conference title. While the Boston Celtics are their most formidable adversary in the East, they still lack the depth and talent necessary to outmatch Cleveland in the regular season.
The Cavaliers are looking stronger than ever before. They essentially have two starting lineups, and the variety of weapons they have within their roster will likely lead them to a fourth consecutive Finals appearance. Is this due to a depleted Eastern Conference? That is debatable. But at any rate, Cleveland will definitely be one of the teams to beat, and look for them to represent the East in the Finals once again.
Predicted Record: 62-20