After coming up short against the Golden State Warriors in their second NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, the Cleveland Cavaliers had a successful offseason in retaining their core. Power Forward Kevin Love signed a multi-year contract with the squad early in the offseason which will keep in Cleveland for years to come. Love was a key addition to the squad that was missing in the NBA Finals as he injured his shoulder in the first round of the playoffs against the Celtics. Despite a few well-documented off-court distractions, most notably the recently settled contract feud between the Cavs’ front office and Tristan Thompson, LeBron James and company are widely seen as the favorites entering the season.
The annual survey of NBA GMs revealed that Cleveland, while slowly rehabilitating their roster back to full health, is the most feared team in the East. In fact, an astonishing 96.6% of GMs chose Cavs as the most likely to win the lesser of the two conferences, while 53.6% picked them to win the entire championship. Another less surprising poll revealed that GMs designated LeBron as the league-wide favorite to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award at 40%, followed by Anthony Davis with 25%.
Though the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be without multiple key players for their season opener against the revamped Chicago Bulls on October 27th, David Blatt should feel very comfortable given his team’s schedule. Though the production of Tristan Thompson, who finished 4th last year in offensive rebounding percentage at 14.5, and Kyrie Irving, who possesses mass amounts of star power, will be hard to replicate early on, the Cavs bolstered their bench with the likes of Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson and Jared Cunningham. Moreover, J.R. Smith has looked very impressive through seven preseason games and led the team in scoring for two.
It’s more than clear that the ultimate aim of this team is to win an NBA title. While that is no indicator that this Cavs’ squad is going take the regular season lightly, David Blatt has already indicated that key rotation players will have minute caps. It won’t be a surprise to see the Cavs, even in the first month of playoff action, value health as their top priority. Kyrie Irving (36.4) and LeBron James (36.1) finished 3rd and 5th respectively in minutes per game across the association last season. With the postseason run, that is a ton of mileage on their bodies.
A key 10-game stretch to pay attention to in October/November for this team comes between October 30th and November 19th. During this 20-day period, the Cavaliers will face 10 straight competitions against opponents who did not finish with a winning record in 2014-2015. This includes two matches against both the struggling New York Knicks and inexperienced Philadelphia 76ers. With 17 games before December, it seems likely that we will see LeBron James build a case for MVP early on in the season. His 26 PER (8th in league) and 31.8 USG (4th in the league) through 69 games last year are two stats that undoubtedly will rise.
Courtesy of Cleveland.com