LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love. These three superstars who have all decided to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers over the past off season have immediately made the Cleveland Cavaliers’ terrifying contenders in a relatively weak Eastern conference. The hype surrounding the new look Cavs has been huge, with many people pinning them as the new NBA champions. But do they have what it takes to soldier through an 82-game season and have enough left in the tank to beat teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder?
LeBron is indisputably the best basketball player in the world right now. His contribution to a team is massive, but will he be enough to carry the Cavs to the Finals?
The answer is most likely no.
So Cleveland also brought in Irving and Love to support him. This trio is absolutely dominant on the offensive end of the court, scoring 27.1, 20.8 and 26.1 points per game last season respectively.
So, before continuing on and bashing their defense, let’s take a look at the supporting cast the Cavs have to work with. They made two great signings this offseason in Mike Miller and Shawn Marion. Mike Miller is an absolute assassin from three-point range and helps spread the floor alongside Kevin Love. Shawn Marion provides another defensive leader and anchor to work alongside Anderson Varejao. The Cavs also have two young stars in the likes of Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson.
Besides offense, the Cavs are left with little coming off of their bench with players such as James Jones and Joe Harris filling those spots.
The biggest concern for the Big Three and the rest of the Cavaliers will be their defense, Kyrie’s defense is questionable at best, and Kevin Love is just a puddle of poor positioning and stat-oriented defending. LeBron is one of the better one-on-one defenders in the NBA, unfortunately, he simply can’t guard a whole team or anchor the defense from the paint. So, the Cavs will almost be completely dependent on 36-year-old Marion and the frequently injured Varejao to be the leaders of a lazy, young and disorganized defense. The saying, “Defense wins Championships” has never applied more to a team. The Cavaliers will go as far as their defense will take them. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated or dominant their offensive system is. If they face a dual threat team like the Thunder, they will be shut down. With rim protectors like Serge Ibaka, the Cavs will be forced to shoot. No matter how good you are at shooting, if you let Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get free trips to the basket, you are going to lose. The Cavaliers must realize this before the season starts if they wish to make a legitimate run in the postseason, David Blatt and the coaching staff must get the most out of Irving and Love in order for this team to be successful.
While this team will not in any way flop in the epic fashion of the 2012-2013 Lakers, they also won’t be blazing a path to the Finals as many expect them to either. As stated before, the success of this Cleveland team completely lies in whether or not their defense can hold solid through the long NBA season. If it does, this team will be nearly unstoppable, if not, they will struggle against a higher level of competition. Only time will tell if these Cavaliers can start another dynasty in basketball.