The performance you saw out of the Cleveland Cavaliers last season was as close to an NBA championship as they’ve been in the team’s history. Two wins away, with a heartbreaking loss on their home floor, the Cavs will be back with a vengeance next season.
As of right now, the Cavaliers are odds on favorites to not just make it out of the Eastern Conference, but to win it all. For the Cavaliers to complete what they are expected to, they will have to do something they couldn’t last season, stay healthy.
Without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the NBA Finals, it was the LeBron James show. Unfortunately, others like JR Smith, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova went cold when they were needed most. In fact, those few times that LeBron James was not on the court, the Cavaliers did not make a field goal. They went 0-21, and were simply dominated.
After only strengthening the squad (assuming Tristan Thompson re-signs), Cleveland will have to beat the best of the West to finally bring a title to the most deserving city in the nation. With so many tough teams in the Western Conference, it’s anybody’s guess who could make it out of that madhouse, so here are the five teams the Cavs are most likely to see in the Finals.
5. Houston Rockets
The Rockets are tough matchup, and can be the best team in basketball on their day. James Harden was very close to being dubbed the league MVP last season, and will be on a mission to reach the plateau he was so close to achieving.
The Rockets added veteran Ty Lawson who has his reputation on the line, he has everything prove in leading his new team. Lawson should start for this team, with plenty of weapons in his arsenal.
Houston looked like they were going to bow out of last season’s playoffs to the LA Clippers, who held a 3-1 series advantage at one stage. Harden and co made one spirited comeback, eventually beating the Clippers, only to face the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
With an experienced coaching staff, a good balance of seasoned vets and exciting youth, expectations will be high for Houston.
Dwight Howard is right in his prime, with Harden just about to enter that stage of his career. For this team, the time is now.
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4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are always mentioned amongst the Western Conferences elite, have they finally done enough to get over the hump and compete on basketballs biggest stage?
The Clips have brought on board troublesome duo Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith, as well as signing Wesley Johnson, Pablo Prigioni and Cole Aldrich. With DeAndre Jordan completing a full 360 and deciding to stick around in LA, the Clippers may finally have the manpower to achieve what is expected of them.
The championship window is coming to a close for the older guys on LA’s roster. Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce, Dahntay Jones and Hedo Turkoglu will be looking to make some lasting impressions in their last couple of seasons of basketball.
For the other guys like Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, all eyes are them. They broke all the unwritten rules of the moratorium period of free agency, and now they must back it up.
It’s simply championship or bust for these Clippers.
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3. Oklahoma City Thunder
Some may have forgotten just how good the Oklahoma City Thunder can be. We haven’t seen a fit and firing Thunder squad for quite some time, with Westbrook and Durant seemingly taking turns at spending time on the sidelines.
Russell Westbrook genuinely believes that he is the best point guard in the NBA, leading him to some All-World confidence. A healthy Kevin Durant also challenges LeBron James for the title of the best basketball player on the face of the earth.
With a newly cashed up and contracted Enes Kanter, he’ll have a lot to prove. Dion Waiters plays with a chip on his shoulder the size of Russia (also in a contract year) and the Thunder will finally get to play their newest recruits like Kyle Singler and DJ Augustine alongside their superstars.
An OKC vs Cleveland NBA Finals would be an incredible spectacle. Irving vs Westbrook, James vs Durant and Love vs Ibaka. The Battle of the Titans.
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2. Golden State Warriors
This is the rematch we all want to see right?
With a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, would the Cavs have had the firepower to be crowned champions? That’s a question that we’ll never know the answer to, so a rematch is about as good as we’ll get.
The role players that were asked to step in the 2015 NBA Finals, did not do that, they got stage fright, and they got it good and proper. After reporters were claiming that Matthew Dellavedova was the ‘Curry Stopper’ after some fantastic defensive efforts, it seems the MVP took that to heart and sought after redemption.
Kenny Honaker ·
Curry was on another level, draining impossible shots from impossible angles, and now the rest is history. For the upcoming season, coming out of the West will be a battle for the reigning champs, the Western Conference is a gauntlet of tough team after tough team.
As much as we would love to see this rematch, the Warriors will have their hands full with the #1 team on this list.
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1. San Antonio Spurs
If getting revenge on last year’s heartbreak doesn’t work out, getting revenge on the embarrassment of the 2007 NBA Finals could be even sweeter.
In 2007, LeBron James took a sorry bunch of role players on a journey to the Finals, and it was the first time in the teams then 37 year existence appearing under the lights of the Finals. The series was a forgettable one, with Cleveland being swept off the floor in a 4-0 series routing.
This Spurs squad is genuinely frightening though, and should be feared by all, all season. With the old faithful of Duncan, Ginobili and Coach Pop returning, the Spurs also landed the big fish of the summer’s free agency period, LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge joins a team that fits the way he plays basketball perfectly. A slow and organized team that plays through the low post. Aldridge should thrive in Pops system, and therefor the Spurs should thrive.
Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge and Tim Duncan. Combine that with the bench scoring of Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and David West, and the coaching prowess of Gregg Popovich and his staff, it’s pretty tough to find a weak spot throughout the entire organization.
If this a the matchup we are faced with, LeBron James has already lost to Tim Duncan and co twice in the NBA Finals. He will not let it happen again.