Atop the East with a franchise-best 9-1 start and seemingly little media attention, the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are proverbially flying under the radar.
Thanks to the Los Angeles Clippers also starting off at a franchise-best mark of 10-1 and the Bay Area-based “superteam” also known as the Golden State Warriors seemingly being the pre-ordained NBA regular-season champions once again, the Cavs have the luxury of not being in the spotlight or at the center of never-ending scrutiny.
How is it that a team that has a future top-five Hall-of-Famer in Lebron James, one of the top five point guards in the league today in Kyrie Irving, a perennial double-double machine in Kevin Love—also one of the best stretch forwards in the game—and one of the league’s deadliest shooters in J.R. Smith, that Cleveland is seemingly being overlooked?
Heck, even Tristan Thompson in keeping up with a Kardashian in dating Khloe.
Whether it is fending off the pesky and upstart Toronto Raptors or dealing with verbal jabs of a certain brash loud-mouthed, groin-loving foil from their newly anointed rival, LBJ and his group of “Kingsmen” are in the perfect spot.
While everyone else is dissecting how well Kevin Durant fits in Golden State, whether or not Oklahoma City uber-guard Russell Westbrook drops another triple-double or how many losses the Warriors have, the champs are quietly—and efficiently—beating establishing themselves as beasts of the East.
In winning nine of their first ten games—the best-ever start by a LeBron-led team–Cleveland is second to Golden State in points per game (110.6), tied for fifth with the Warriors in three-point percentage (37.3) and is second behind the Houston Rockets in three-pointers made a game (13.2)
While they rank 15th in field-goal percentage at 44.5 percent, the Cavs rank tenth in field goals made at 39.1 percent. Cleveland also ranks in the top ten in offensive rebounds at 11.1 and 12th in defensive rebounding at 34.2
One of their hallmarks, Cleveland is in the top ten in total rebounds per game at 45.0
What should scare opponents is that the champs aren’t even beginning to hit their stride in playing their best basketball. Couple that with LeBron expected to sit on the second night of back-to-backs such as tonight against the Indiana Pacers, come playoff time, Cleveland should be the odds-on favorite to come out of the East, and one of the teams likely to win the 2017 NBA title—and their second overall.
It’s only ten games so far, but one can see that Cleveland is playing like they lost last spring, instead of pulling off a historic 3-1 comeback.
Perhaps they are using the Durant acquisition in Golden State as motivation to play better, or due to a lack of media disrespect, but make no mistake, the Cavaliers are more than motivated to defend their crown this year.