Can the Cleveland Cavaliers Actually Win an NBA Championship?

Walker DanielsCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2009

Everyone's main focus right now is March Madness odds and the college basketball game, but what is going somewhat unnoticed is the growth of the Cleveland Cavaliers and their star who didn't play in college.

With about 16 games to go in the regular season, the Cavaliers sit atop the NBA with a record of 53-13.

While they would lose out on home-court advantage in a tie-breaker situation with the Los Angeles Lakers, who currently have an identical record, the Cavaliers have four more home games remaining over the Lakers.

Two years ago, when the Cavaliers went to the NBA Finals, while it was considered an accomplishment for the franchise, nobody considered them a serious threat to the Championship. The San Antonio Spurs easily handled them in four straight games.

The same can't be said for this year's team, and while sportsbook odds-makers have made the proper adjustments, has the public?

While the obvious thing to do is to give LeBron James credit, the fact of the matter is that this has been a team effort.

For starters, General Manager, Danny Ferry, has done an excellent job of building this team. The Cavs have added Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, Ben Wallace, Joe Smith and Mo Williams over the last two seasons, while losing little from their core.

There was a time where it looked like Anderson Varejao might leave and Sasha Pavlovic would look for work elsewhere, but Ferry managed to keep them.

Next has been the growth of Mike Brown as a head coach. When he first took over the job, a lot of fans, pundits and on-line betting handicappers were skeptical of the move.

But the reality is that Brown has instilled a San Antonio Spurs-like defensive mindset. Not only that, but like the Spurs, the Cavaliers put an emphasis on—and do a great job of—closing out quarters and halves.

The general manager and the coach can only put the pieces in place. It's the players that have to learn, grow and execute, which is exactly what the Cavs have done.

Starting with LeBron James. He has improved significantly in the last two seasons. For starters, he's now one of the best on-the-ball defenders.

Offensively, we all know his story, but it's worth noting that he's playing just under three minutes less per game, but is on pace to set a new career-high in field goal percentage and assists per game, while setting a new low for turnovers per game.

But it's not just James who has improved.

Varejao, who seemed to be a Sideshow Bob-like gimmick for the Cavs, who would come off the bench and agitate, flop and play good defense, is now a key member on this squad. He's on pace to set career highs for games started, field-goal percentage, points per game, and blocks per game.

West, who didn't even get an opportunity to play in Seattle, is chipping in 12 points a game while alleviating many of the point guard duties from Williams and James. If you recall, this is a team that used to use Damon Jones at the point guard position, so the addition of West was a real upgrade.

Mo Williams, the main point guard on the team, was supposed to be a greedy ball-handler, who never passed in Milwaukee. Many people thought he'd come over and disrupt the team chemistry.

But Williams has not only been a key member for this squad, but he's become an All-Star secondary weapon that makes it nearly impossible to double-team James. Williams is on pace to average new career highs for points per game and three-pointers per game.

This is an organization that from top to bottom has built a championship-caliber team properly. There is depth, there are role players there is versatility, there is a superstar and there are now plenty of secondary options.

While many people think of the Cavs as just another team that's having a great regular season—à la the New Orleans Hornets last year—those people might be surprised to see the Cavs winning a Championship.

For everyone else who is paying attention, given the way this team is playing, it won't be a shock whatsoever.

Even though the Cavs will likely have home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs at the very least, until they unseat the Boston Celtics, nobody is going to rank them ahead.

But what is important here is that the Cavaliers are genuinely capable of winning a Championship, which is something we couldn't have said two years ago.