The new (LeBron) world order in the East


VIDEO: LeBron’s homecoming means a return to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference standings for the Cavs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Take the words of LeBron James as gospel on what will become of the Cleveland Cavaliers with the hometown hero back in the mix. As LeBron told SI.com, this is just the first step of the process:

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.

The Cavaliers’ metamorphosis from lottery outfit to true championship contender won’t happen overnight. While Las Vegas and everyone else seems to have forgotten about the San Antonio Spurs (the team that smashed the two-time defending champion Heat in The Finals last month), LeBron’s keen eye for history allows him to see that.

Even with LeBron, the Cavs might not be the best team in what could be a loaded Central Division next season.

Don’t forget, the Cavaliers couldn’t even make the playoffs in a watered down Eastern Conference last season. And the Atlanta Hawks made it to the playoffs last season with just 38 wins.

LeBron’s belief in the Cavaliers’ core group won’t necessarily be enough to push them past the Indiana Pacers, the team  that owned the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, or the potentially revamped Chicago Bulls, were they to secure the services of free-agent Carmelo Anthony and get a healthy season from one-time league MVP Derrick Rose.

No one should forget about the Toronto Raptors, winners of the Atlantic Division, or Washington Wizards, a surprise Eastern Conference semifinalist after knocking off the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. Both teams retained their marquee free agents — Kyle Lowry in Toronto and Marcin Gortat in Washington —  and will both be a year wiser and better.

Still, LeBron’s arrival changes the Eastern Conference landscape the same way it did four years ago when he showed up in Miami and (along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) turned a middle of the road Heat team into a contender.

Forget what that Cavaliers’ roster looks like today. Focus on what it could look like when the Cavs are done exploring their options. Swing a Kevin Love deal and add veterans and LeBron-friendlies like Mike Miller and Ray Allen, and perhaps that process LeBron mentioned can be accelerated.

The one thing that was true in 2010 about LeBron and his approach remains true this time around: He cannot do it alone. Wade and Bosh were crucial then and Irving and Wiggins will serve as his chief aides this time around. Love would certainly be the X-factor, but with or without Love, there is a new world order in the East.

Here’s an early look at the top eight in the Eastern Conference (as of this moment):

1) Indiana – Even with all of their dysfunction at the end of the season, the Pacers remain the most formidable roadblock for contenders in the Eastern Conference.

2) Cleveland – They get a big edge from the LeBron bump … YES, he means that much to whatever team he’s on. And that’s before we see what else the Cavs can come up with this summer.

3) Chicago – Carmelo pushes them up to a near tie for the No. 2 spot. Toss in Pau Gasol and we’re talking about a possible new No. 1. But there is much work to be done in the Windy City.

4) Toronto — Masai Ujiri is in the midst of changing the culture in Toronto, the most important step being his successful effort to keep Lowry in the fold.

5) Washington — Trevor Ariza remains an important piece for the Wizards, but he’s replaceable if a deal cannot be struck. The Wizards have as strong a young backcourt tandem in John Wall and Bradley Beal as there is in the East.

6) Charlotte – The addition of Gordon Hayward, if the Utah Jazz don’t match the $63 million offer sheet, does not vault the Hornets into the top half of the playoff chase.

7) Atlanta – The return of Al Horford from injury is more important than just about any free-agent signing the Hawks could execute this summer.

8) Miami – They lost out on LeBron but will keep Bosh and Wade as Pat Riley tries to repair the damage of the departure of the best player on the planet.

LeBron James is headed back home to Cleveland.

LeBron James is headed back home to Cleveland.

 

30 Comments

  1. gBr says:

    To me with move this guy earned my respect and a place in All Time Greats. Best player in the game. Wish him only wins..

  2. NBAfan says:

    Lebron James is the best player right now, but him leaving the heat doesn’t turn them from championship contender to 8th seed in the weak weak East.

    Deng is there, Granger is there. Bosh stayed put, and they still have their 4 straight finals appearance to boost them. At best, the HEAT becomes the new PACERS in the east and Bosh can show that he can do much more than he has.

  3. Ryan says:

    Raptors 3rd seed in the East, going to second round of playoffs….we’re 2 to 3 years away from been in the finals…just watch Caboclo, Klowry, DD. TRoss, JV…s*$#’s not even started yet!!!

  4. ko0kiE says:

    plz don’t trade wiggins..

  5. fireme says:

    lebron is lebron its his decision so just respect it.. cant wait to see the cavs play again

  6. trust me says:

    1. cleveland
    2.chicago (people are forgetting about d rose)
    3. indiana (they’re losing chemistry)
    4. toronto
    5. charlotte (they’re the hornets people, not the bobcats)
    6. washington
    7. miami
    8. atlanta

    • ngkjfdgkjbdkjg says:

      too early to tell… but…

      1. Chicago – D.Rose + Gasol + Noah
      2. Cleveland – we might see a Popovich-Duncan type of relationship in the making w/ Blatt & LeBron. Excited to see them play
      3. Brooklyn (no love for Hollins and Plumlee?)
      4. Indiana (they’re secretly shipping off Hibbert for better puzzle pieces, and they should keep Lance)
      5. Toronto (deepest backcourt ever, their GM may surprise us with more moves)
      6. Atlanta (healthy Horford is the biggest key)
      7. Washington (Gortat must live up to his contract for a long long time, though)
      8. Charlotte

      as of their current state, NY & Miami ain’t playoff contenders yet…

  7. pokingatthebear says:

    lebron just made the biggest mistake in his life basketball wise…he will never win another championship again…
    his best bet was with miami…and he will never have teammates like wade and bosh again….he let his feelings get
    the best of him….he will regret the decision once his career is over….cause he will only end up with 2 rings as to wade’s
    3 or maybe more.If lebron is counting on the young players they have in cav he will be dead wrong…by the time they are
    up to the challenge lebron will be too old….just look at wade now…

  8. Paul says:

    I think James is already like Michael Jordan was toward the end of his career, he’s rather help a young team than a constant quest for more titles. he’s been to The Finals 5 times already, it can become an obsession (winning rings at all cost). I think he’ll Cleveland many years and than maybe jump to another team at the end when people are saying he’s not as good as he use to be. Than maybe he’ll get title #3 or #4 depending if he fulfills the goal in Cleveland to get one.

  9. sonik says:

    How can 3 Central Division teams (Cleveland, Chicago, Indiana) be in top 4? That’s impossible, in top 4 there are 3 division winners and team with best record without winning one. Looking at your choice it would be:
    1) Indiana
    2) Cleveland
    3) Toronto
    4) Washington
    5) Chicago
    You’re welcome :)

  10. For6iven says:

    I believe the Cavs will be a nice contender. They should start getting some deals done ASAP. If they can get a Mark Jackson to coach and some depth like Gasol, Love, Deng or Ariza they are serious contenders.

    • agree says:

      With LeBron, Kyrie, Wiggins, Waiters and Varejao, they at least have a solid core of work-horse players to begin the new season with. Now leBron is in, i think Deng will want to stay on – even for a reduced salary, just because he’ll know, they’re contenders again already. Easy to see Cav’s need *alot* more front court help for Varejao. Bigs like Gasol, Blatche and even, at a stretch, K-Mart might wanna join (on a discount) now they know LeBron is back onboard. My 2 cents.

  11. I’m sorry to bust everyones bubble but I’m not even a fan of Lebron yet I’ll say that the Cavs are contenders without a doubt. Any team Lebron James plays for has a shot at winning the title, not a guarantee but a shot. And the young talent around the newly matured Lebron James will come to rise in BELIEVELAND and Cavs will make a run for the title. Gave the man some credit and stop hating on his game, Lebron is blessed with natural talent and will put Cleveland back on top, the guy is best player in the world right now, all you haters need to get a life and because we all know how talented Lebron is.

  12. Ouriya says:

    Lebron has made a mistake.
    Even though I’m from Israel and I’m rooting for Blatt, his new coach, he’s got no chance.

    This Cavaliers team will reach the finals.
    The East is too weak, Bobcats at number 6?
    Washinton and toronto fighting for home advantage?

    But the West is too strong.
    The Thunder, the Clippers, the Rockets (+Bosh), the Warriors, the Mavs, the Blazers.
    And of course the reigning champs the San Antonio Spurs!

    Lebron James’ Cavs are too young to win the championship,
    they will lose in a convincing fashion to one of the more experienced western teams.

    Should have stayed in Miami with Wade and Bosh and maybe try to land some big names.
    The free agency market is still stacked:
    Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Greivies Vaskuez, Trevor Ariza, and more.

  13. Rico says:

    No mention of Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Love deal soon?

  14. mac d says:

    Once I saw the Nix on the list over BKN the writer immediately lost credibility

  15. Brian says:

    This actually might me better for Chicago. If Carmelo Anthony wants to be in the same division as Kings James, he’ll come to chicago for sure

  16. Ag Sunshine says:

    i ment chemistry, sorry, i´m a foreigner

  17. Ag Sunshine says:

    I totally agree with you, Brooklin will be in. In other hand, NBA is just a show, a drama and a fantasy. All this drama for James to land back to Cleveland! We knew that was going to happen… Sorry LB`s fans but the truth is that he´s not that great. A team is not just a player and good GMs know that MJ was not the only one that brought titles to the Bulls so we should stop pushing about fantasy and preach what the Spurs have preached: TEAM QUEMICAL! It´s all about that! It´s not about superman or batman, it´s about groups working together, families, everybody a hero. Don´t get me wrong, i´m a huge basketball, MJ, Mav´s and good game fan.

  18. dpistons says:

    Detroit pistons gona be a contender this year with svg!!

  19. Lou says:

    Why would Brooklyn not be in the top 8 with pretty much the entire core returning and arguably have gotten better in the offseason???

    • Cam says:

      @Lou they lost Paul Pierce… and most of the rest will need walkers and dentures this season.

    • Tyler Kitchen says:

      Brooklyn will be the 6 seed Charlotte will miss playoffs and Detroit will snag the 8 spot

    • bill says:

      gotten better in the off-season?

      more like gotten older in the off-season bro

    • asdfsdfsadfsadfsdaf says:

      Because they stink stinkweed

    • Dev says:

      I agree- and they beat Toronto without Brook Lopez

    • jmcelts says:

      Brooklyn will lose Pierce,and Joe Johnson is by far the most over rated player in the league, Williams has 2 bad anlkles Lopez you don’t what you have there, thye already lost 2 guards, and they have NO draft picks for 3 years what else do you need to know that Brooklyn is dead

    • MT says:

      Why would they get better in the offseason?

      They are not getting any younger. Lionel Collins might help and I rate Jarrett Jack a better fit than Shaun Livingston.

      I do agree they are a better team than the knicks though.