The Cleveland Cavaliers are finally contenders...
Bear with me. I wasn't asleep during 2007, I do remember Cleveland facing San Antonio in the finals, which, really would make them a contender yes?
The Cavs were incredibly lucky in that trip to the finals, riding a certain someones historic scoring performance and taking full advantage of the Detroit Pistons breakdown in the Eastern Conference Finals (apparently that's when holiday kicks in for the Pistons.)
And we all know that the Cavs had absolutely no chance against the Spurs. They got swept for a reason. Tony Parker was playing out of his mind and wasn't going to be stopped by Larry Hughes or Damon Jones. Tim Duncan was...well exactly the same as he has always been. And that's pretty good really.
Let's look at the main rotation guys for the Cavaliers in those four games:
Let us now compare to the Cavaliers main guys today:
Newcomers: (This Season)
Quite the improvement, wouldn't you agree?
The Cavaliers have joined Boston in their running away with the Eastern Conference, only Orlando is anywhere near the two. Currently, the team is riding an eight-game winning streak that has given them a 17-3 record, an unbelievable start which has of course given them the central division crown, and it looks like they'll be keeping it awhile.
Now, they are contenders.
Why? Because they aren't a one-man team anymore.
No doubt, they are still the King's team. LeBron is still amazing fans, opponents, teammates, everyone with his stellar play. He appears to be the front-runner for the M.V.P (though that argument is for another day) and will be the leading man throughout the playoffs.
But he has always been this way. Didn't he almost average a triple-double last season? Hasn't he always been the main guy?
So what's different?
The answer is simple, the Cavs are no longer LeBron plus a cast of washed up guys who could be good for a game or two. Now they have a deep bench and are playing real team ball.
For the guys that were here last season, they have finally had time to form some chemistry after the trade that brought Delonte West, Ben Wallace and others into the mix.
Wallace, though long gone from his defensive player of the year days, has accepted a leadership role, being named Captain along with James. And at the end of the day he is still within the top 10 in blocked shots, and it never hurts to have a guy built like Ben
West has made a huge improvement. He has run a lot of the 2 position so far and has become an unbelievable sharpshooter, shooting a career high 43 percent from behind the arc. West has seemingly found his niche in Cleveland as a role player, and is filling the position well.
Mo Williams, obviously the biggest acquisition of the summer for the Cavs, is playing the second option role very well. He is hitting the open shot, running the break, and basically relieving the pressure from LeBron.
In years before, when the game came down to the wire or if another team put on a press, the options were LeBron bringing up the ball or leaving it to Damon Jones, Eric Snow or a young Daniel Gibson.
Now that Williams can bring the ball up without the other four guys having to worry about it, this has allowed LeBron to go and set up in the offense earlier. So far this season LeBron has been playing a lot of the four position. For a guy with his body and skill, this is obviously a brilliant idea by Coach Mike Brown.
LeBron can easily overpower, or shoot over almost any defender in the block. Of course this forces defences to collapse upon him, which simply lets him use possibly his best skill, his passing. With Big Z having great hands and being capable of finishing, along with growing rookie J.J Hickson and Lorenzen Wright, this is a great option.
As I mentioned previously, this group has finally been allowed to create some chemistry between each other, and with an elevated offense mixing with an already elite defense (thanks largely to Mike Brown, a coach i greatly respect, and who LeBron respects) they give you their 17-3 record, proving many, including myself wrong in thinking the team would not improve much from last year.
Of course, we are only a quarter of a way through the season, and many things to injuries to shooting-slumps can happen between here and late April.
But most of the group do playoff experience, a lot of them with each other, meaning that they will finally become a real threat to that title.
New York fans are getting nervous...