While some may consider it preposterous and simple hyperbole to think, but thanks to the dominance of the Golden State Warriors, are the defending Eastern champion Cleveland Cavaliers being overlooked?
This is a team that has played in three straight NBA Finals, has this generation’s best player in LeBron James, a three-time NBA champion and Finals MVP in Dwyane Wade, a former NBA MVP in Derrick Rose, one the league’s leading scorers last year in Isaiah Thomas, one of the top five stretch forwards in Kevin Love and one of it’s deadliest shooters in J.R. Smith and they are considered by many an after thought.
Yes, there is that 800-pound Bay Area gorilla out West, and a seemingly top-heavy super-conference that has teams such as Oklahoma City, who added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, the Houston Rockets who traded for Chris Paul, San Antonio who has quietly remained the same ol’ Spurs, Minnesota who traded for Jimmy Butler, New Orleans who has this generation’s version of the Twin Towers in Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins.
And I haven’t even talked about Memphis, Denver, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers.
While the West is loaded and will be an Olympic-level MMA-style gauntlet to get through, it ain’t like the East is that easy either.
While Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward ended up in Boston, the archrival Celtics, still will have to contend with Cleveland, a dangerous Atlanta Hawks squad and an under-the-radar team in the Miami Heat. And don’t even let me discuss East contenders such as Washington, Toronto and the Milwaukee Bucks.
So, how and why is a LBJ-led team being so causally overlooked, when they have won the East seven straight years, and will likely come out of it to face Golden State in a likely Round 4 matchup in the NBA Finals.
One can only wonder, but while some may want to dismiss them as too old, too slow and playing in an inferior conference, it would be wise to never understate them. While they looked a bit out of sync, disjointed and showed now real chemistry in unveiling their new starting five of James, Wade, Rose, Jaw Crowder and Love during a 108-94 loss to the Chicago Bulls last night, the preseason is not an accurate precursor of how the regular season will go.
In his first pre-season game coming off an ankle injury, James scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists in 30 minutes. Sure, there was a little rust and some kinks to work out, but the Cavs have a veteran-filled, loaded bench—which had been their Achilles heel, the last few years—that may help put them over the top.
Overlook them at your own peril, but as long as The King reigns in Cleveland, the cavaliers will remain the beasts of the east.