With all the off-season moves the Cleveland Cavaliers have made so far this year, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Cleveland has transformed itself into a win-now team. Not only because of the additions of LeBron James and David Blatt, but with the reported deal for Kevin Love in place and a ‘Big 3′ of James, Love and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs are now 3-1 favorites to bring the city of Cleveland an NBA Championship.
So with the roster filling out and the summer winding down, I present to you the seven reasons why the Cavs will win the NBA championship this year.
1) The Return of LeBron James
Let’s not beat around the bush, LeBron is the best basketball player in the world. LBJ has been to the promised land five times, he has four MVP awards and two championship rings. He led Miami to four straight title appearances and was the Finals MVP both times the Heat won. Unlike his first tenure in Cleveland, LeBron returns as a veteran whose mental makeup and basketball IQ finally matches his physical abilities. He no longer is forced to succumb to the pressures of not having a ring, and in fact is reinvigorated with the challenge of finally bringing a trophy to Cleveland.
Aside from the fact that LeBron has won four of the last six MVP awards, with his pass-first mentality James sets a new bar for making his teammates better. Just think of the barrage of players that essentially disappeared from the league after he took his talents to South Beach. Of the 18 players to play on the 2010-11 Cavaliers roster, a team that won 61 games, only six (James, Danny Green, J.J. Hickson, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varajao, Mo Williams) are still in the NBA. Of those six, only three (James, Green, Hickson) started over 50 games last year.
Having a player like James allows coaches to be flexible and creative in their roster makeup. By placing him alongside players who are already All-Stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, LeBron will easily have the best roster he’s ever had while in a Cavaliers uniform. In 2007, the starting point guard for the Cavaliers in their sole Finals appearance was Eric Snow and the power forward was Drew Gooden. This year’s lineup will feature Irving and Love. If LeBron can boost the performances of those two as much as he did for players like Daniel Gibson and Donyell Marshall, this Cavaliers team will surely find itself in their second Finals appearance in nine years.
2) David Blatt is a Better Coach Than You Think
There is ample speculation as to whether or not Head Coach David Blatt will succeed as LeBron’s fourth head coach. The rookie NBA coach, who has been referred to as the ”Euroleague icon” by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojarowski, has won championships on several different professional levels overseas. Blatt is a four-time Israeli League Coach of the Year (1996, 2002, 2011, and 2014), six-time Israeli Cup Champion (2002, 2003, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014), five-time Israeli League Champion (2002, 2003, 2011, 2012, and 2014) and even won the Euro League Coach of the Year last season. To make a long story short, Blatt has won on just about every level of pro-basketball except for the NBA.
The preconceived notion surrounding Blatt because of his inexperience in the NBA may be unwarranted, but it certainly is ample. Not only has he spent his entire coaching career across the pond, but Blatt also played European basketball professionally for nine years. His coaching style centers around the Princeton offense, an offense that focuses on ball movement and player movement, thus resulting in uncontested looks at the rim and more open shots for shooters.
Then there’s this, David Blatt was hired before LeBron announced his return to the Cavs. Owner Dan Gilbert brought Blatt into an organization that hasn’t even seen a .500 record since LeBron departed. Blatt was touted by several NBA franchises because of his stellar Euro-rep and chose Cleveland, not only because he relished the idea of being a head coach in the NBA, but because he recognized the potential of a young roster that featured a franchise point guard and a number one overall draft pick. Now he has LeBron James and (hopefully) Kevin Love.
3) Lack of Competition in the Eastern Conference
LeBron has absolutely dominated the Eastern Conference for the last five years. He has finished first or second in the East every year since 2009 and has won four straight Eastern Conference Finals.
The Indiana Pacers finished first in the standings last year, but since have lost All-Star Paul George to a gruesome season ending injury and let the electric triple-double threat Lance Stephenson escape in free agency.
The Cavaliers biggest challenger for the East crown appears to be the Chicago Bulls. They regained former MVP Derrick Rose and also managed to lure big man Pau Gasol from the Lakers. Chicago had the NBA’s best defense last season, allowing a feeble 91.8 points a game on only 43% shooting.
Young teams like the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets will undoubtedly have strong runs, but none of those rosters can seriously challenge these new-look Cavaliers. While the Miami Heat with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will still be formidable, any aspirations of a championship run in South Florida hinge on Wade’s knees.
LeBron has run the Eastern Conference for the last few years and doesn’t appear to have lost his grip on it just yet.
4) The Kevin Love Effect
With the reported deal for Kevin Love in place, it’s just a matter of time until the silky smooth jump shooter will slip into a Cavaliers uniform. Giving a player like LeBron a stretch-four will give any defense fits, and for proof just look at the Miami Heat of the last four years.
Chris Bosh and Kevin Love have eerily similar numbers. Both players have a career average of 19.2 points per game. Love has been a rebounding machine, with a career average of 12.2, while Chris Bosh has a modest 8.7. One key attribute which separates Love from Bosh, however, is Love’s ability to rebound the ball and quickly send it up court. Love is known to be one of the best outlet-passing big men in the NBA and to have a guy like “Freight Tran James” running alongside the either wing, the combination promises to be devastating.
In addition, Love has the tremendous ability to shoot from three. The former Three-Point Shootout Champion (2012) is a career 36% shooter from long range. He can stretch the floor for LeBron and Kyrie when they drive to the basket. The best complement to LBJ’s game is a player who can shoot the ball, and Love is the best at doing that at his position.
5) Veteran Championship Experience
Between LeBron, Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion, the Cavaliers roster has a combined seven NBA championships. If they manage to sign Ray Allen that would push the total to nine, and the Cavaliers have even reportedly worked out Chauncey Billups who has a trophy as well.
But more than the new found depth that the Cavaliers now have, their leader and captain in King James has grown exponentially in terms of a mental makeup that at one point was fragile and detrimental. He is no longer the inexperienced workhouse of a decade ago. In his four year trip to Miami, James’ game grew to new heights. He now knows when and where to exert his energy. He’ll most likely guard the opposing team’s best player in crunch time and isn’t afraid to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.
On top of the players, of course you still have Head Coach David Blatt, who has over ten professional basketball championships already. Blatt now has the best team he’s ever had, and the best player in the world.
Last season the San Antonio Spurs used 37 different starting lineups on their way to their 5th championship in 15 years. A lot of it had to do with strategically resting key veterans throughout the season, but it also speaks to the true depth of the Spurs. San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich didn’t have to think twice about playing a guy off the bench that had already proven himself as a viable starting option earlier in the year.
Third-year shooting guard Dion Waiters has averaged almost 16 point per game in his first two seasons and appears set to make more strides in his overall game playing next to LeBron. And we all know how fan favorite Anderon Varajeo can influence a contest with his hustle and nose for the ball.
For the Cavaliers, adding tested veterans with ample experience like Marion, Miller, Jones and Brendan Haywood will be instrumental in a long playoff run. These guys are no longer the starters they used to be, but the way that they play coming off the bench for Cleveland next season will dictate just how far the Cavs will go. David Blatt’s new offense will stress movement and will allow ample opportunity for players to step in and make an impact.
7) Better Upper Management
The last reason that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win the NBA title next season is simply because Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert will not allow the same mistakes that happened the first time he had LeBron to happen again. After LeBron’s departure in 2010 Gilbert was criticized for not trying hard enough to sign real help for his superstar. In Gilbert’s defense the billionaire pointed out that it was hard to get star talent to sign with the team, not knowing whether or not James would stay long term.
In the short time since LeBron has announced his return to the Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert has already signed two veteran free agents, has an agreement in place for another and reportedly has a deal set to acquire All-Star Kevin Love. The swiftness of the signings and the willingness to spend every available dollar is the polar opposite from the way things were done before.
Perhaps it’s the short contract that LBJ signed with the Cavs that’s keeping the pressure on them to make sure that there are always viable players here in Cleveland. Players that, when coupled with mega-star James, can consistently compete for a title every season.
It looks as if LeBron learned a lot during his time in Miami. Apparently, Dan Gilbert did too.