LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers once again set out on their quest to win the runners-up spot in this year's NBA Finals, but how many wins will it take to get them there?
While the Warriors were busy Clipping the nets, NBA odds were already coming out for the upcoming season. On July 5th, BetOnline opened the Cavaliers with a season win total of 56.5, second only to the Golden State Warriors and with the Celtics’ line off the board. This line, however, would see some movement once news broke that things were not as pretty as painted in the Cavs’ locker room.
Fome the moment it was confirmed that Kyrie wanted out of a Cavaliers uniform, the win total line began its rollercoaster journey to its current position of 54 wins. While the line nine never quite topped 56 wins again, it had fallen as low as 52.5 before it began its slow climb back to put them behind the Warriors (67.5), Rockets (55.5), San Antonio (55.5), even with Boston (54) and just over the new look Oklahoma City (53.5).The Pick: Cavaliers Under 54The Long Game
If Cleveland wants to have any hopes of keeping its chosen son LeBron James in a Cavaliers’ jersey, they will have to find a way to compete with Golden State in next season’s NBA Finals.
While the Cavaliers’ summer ended much better than it started, it still doesn’t seem like enough moves were made to draw in the right pieces to combat against the power that is Golden State.
However, we are here to talk win totals, and it’s all about the regular season performance. Given some of the circumstances surrounding some of Cleveland's’ new acquisitions, you have to suspect that this team will simply spend the regular season attempting to figure out which starting five gives them the best chance of competing in June.
The Thomas Trade
Let's talk about Isaiah Thomas for a second. Kyrie Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder and next year’s Nets’ unprotected pick. Later health concerns for Isaiah became apparent, and Boston later had to toss in a 2020 second rounder sweeten the deal.
This is important for a few reasons. For starters, the team now has a few draft prospects to be excited about over the next few seasons, and they will need everything they can to entice King James to remain with the team. If LeBron feels that the team is poised to bring in the tools he needs to put together a legitimate run against the Warriors over the next few seasons, he might not feel the need to take his talents elsewhere.
Now the second part of that equation and the one that matters most to sports bettors is the injury concern surrounding Isaiah Thomas. Based on comments made at the Cavaliers’ training camp press conferences, it seems that Thomas could be sidelined up through the All-Star Break.
So Who Starts?
The Cavaliers will likely start Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Jae Crowder and Kevin Love for the first part of the season. While Wade and LeBron clearly have a history, expect this new five to take some time to mesh. Rose is injury prone and Wade is not his old self, but these two are not true shooters, which plays to LeBron’s strengths (and stats) but might cause some issues when looking to spread the floor.
In all honesty, Wade fits here, but it feels as if this move is simply one to keep LeBron happy long enough for him to see that this team has hope.This helps limit the cryptic Instagram posts, passive-egressive tweets and ultimately keeps the media focused on the positive energy in the locker room, rather than the elephant in the room. this also gives management a chance to save face and attempt to push that ‘we are giving you what you want, and will continue to do so’ mindset.
Jae Crowder also makes a great fit here, as he will be able to guard the oppositions top player and give LeBron the ability to cover the No. 2 option. Not only does this give LeBron a slight break, but it can also pad his defensive stats as he will be tasked with guarding a weaker player. When was the last time LeBron was paired with a lockdown defender who was able to cover the other team’s best shooter? Shane Battier. Miami Heat Championship years. Again, another move that will keep LBJ happy, while adding a much needed defensive presence to this team.
When I.T. Returns
When Thomas returns to the floor, the Cavs will have to reset the starting five, and ultimately how they play, but this will likely payoff when it comes the needed depth in the playoffs.
However, for that same reason, you have to like the Under here while, despite the talent, this team will likely see many faces before it decides which squad starts come April. And in the Eastern Conference, is it not going to take 53.5 games to make it to the postseason.