Blogtable: Are Cavs still a lock in loaded East?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Are Cavs a lock in loaded East?What makes Curry a great shooter? | Quarter-point Coach of the Year?



VIDEO: LeBron James leads Cavs’ comeback vs. Blazers

> There’s a logjam in the Eastern Conference standings, with just two games separating the top 10 teams. Are the Cavs still a lock to return to the Finals (as most of you predicted back in October), or is this more of a wide-open race now?

David Aldridge, NBA.com: I still don’t see a team in the East that can defeat a fully formed Cavs team with LeBron, Irving, Love and company four times in seven games. Now, that team has yet to take the floor, and there’s no guarantee it will be there in April. But if it does, Cleveland is still the prohibitive favorite to return. I do think Miami has the best chance with its personnel to challenge the Cavs, but the Heat need a healthy Luol Deng to make a real run at Cleveland in the postseason.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: It will be Cleveland. Book the flights. I didn’t pull off the Cavaliers last year when they were 19-20 and trying to reach The Finals for the first time, so I’m certainly not going to doubt them, their formula and their added experience now. At this stage of his career, LeBron James has earned the right to “manage” his way to a sixth straight appearance in the championship round, and it’s on everyone else on this team to line up accordingly. None of the other top East teams cries “legit contender” to me at this point, either.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: There’s a difference between calling the Cavs “a lock” and saying “they are the team to beat.”  That’s where I came down prior to the season, and that’s where I remain. The fact is they still haven’t had Kyrie Irving on the court this season.  If and when he comes back and reaches form, that’s when the Cavs will create separation at the top of the East.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Neither. They are not a lock because there is no such thing in December if the conversation is about May and June. And the East is not wide open. The Cavaliers are clearly the team to beat. That’s the best way to put it. Solid favorites.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI’d never call a team to be a lock for anything — even the Warriors winning the title next summer — but the Cavs remain a very solid pick to emerge from the East. Understand that they haven’t had Kyrie Irving, so when he returns, assume the Cavs will be better in the second half of the season. Haven’t seen anything from the pack to sway me otherwise.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Heat are intriguing to me, because they have a top-five defense and have yet to find much chemistry between their three best offensive players. There’s a high ceiling in Miami if they can put it all together. Furthermore, the Cavs have yet to show us that they’re a top-10 defensive team, and I’m not sure that they can be with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the floor. Still, I’m nowhere close to picking the field vs. the Cavs in the East, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be in Northeast Ohio in June. I can already taste the banh mi sandwiches from our favorite Vietnamese spot off 9th Ave.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: While I think things will be far more interesting than expected in the Eastern Conference this season, I still think the Cavaliers will be the team to beat once they get all of their main players healthy and in a groove. Seeing them right now without Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert does not give us a clear picture of what this team will look like come April. That said, I don’t know that the Cavaliers will just breeze through a much improved playoff field in the East. There could be serious challenges from Miami, Chicago and perhaps even Indiana and Atlanta. But in the end, I have a hard time seeing a fully healthy Cavaliers team finishing their season anywhere other than The Finals.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI guess there are no locks anymore, given the increased influence of injuries on the championship race. We saw last year how the Cavaliers were ultimately ruined by the losses of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Since those things can’t be forecast, I’m going to show faith in LeBron and insist there will be no stopping him short of returning to the NBA Finals.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I can’t see anyone in the East beating them in a seven-game series right now, and that’s without Kyrie Irving or Iman Shumpert in the rotation. I also feel like right now we aren’t seeing the Cavs at full health, but we’re also not seeing them go full-throttle — once LeBron ramps up to full speed, they’re going to be even scarier for the rest of the East. I know the East may have improved from a season ago, but the Cavs are still head and shoulders above the crowd.

26 Comments

  1. Counte says:

    IF LBJ is on the court, the Cavs are winning the east. Doesn’t matter who else is playing. People can say Miami all they want but when is the last time we saw D Wade play well for 3 rounds of the playoffs? Those knees won’t allow it to happen. Washington has regressed. PG13 looks great but he needs help. Doesn’t have it yet. ATL? Next question. Toronto seems would fight but hard to make it serious when your 2 best players won’t shoot over 45% consistently.

  2. Paul says:

    I am a Boston fan, not really a Lebron or Cleveland fan but he did not leave a good Miami team just for a ring. He left Miami, a solid contender, for a ring for Cleveland. If Lebron wanted to win multiple rings he should have stayed with Miami but he took the risk and went for Cleveland because it would mean more. If he gets old and winless there it will be impossible to attract good talent. Cleveland would have never had got Kyrie or other number ones and tradable picks if LBJ had stayed. Clevelanda few years ago could only attract players near the end of the career. When LBJ returned it meant that good players who wanted to win wanted to play in Cleveland.

    I love team teams – Memphis, Boston, Atlanta, Toronto, San Ant the old Indiana and Chicago but even though I hope each year that a good team will prevail it is all about the number of healthy all stars these days

  3. Wjs says:

    Perfectly said, Bulls girl. I don’t know anyone in the history of sports more hated than Lebron James. What kind of name is Lebron anyway, French ? He’s hated by so many I almost started feeling sorry for him then he pulls the stunt in Miami and doesn’t want to play.. If anyone can name a sports figure who is disliked more than king let me know.

  4. bullsgirl says:

    No its not a lock for the Cavs to come out of the east just too early to say. LeBrons last 2 years to the finals to me is meaning less the east was just to weak. Kyrie is prone to injury. No matter what Love and Lebron says it is obvious to me they don’t have any chemistry. Lebron walking basically over Love when he was down on the floor says it all. I have never seen a basketball player that the fans across the league hate like they do Lebron. I can understand why. Most of the east young teams like Orlando, Toronto, detroit and boston play hard every night and that’s really good to watch. the bulls and Miami right now don’t play hard every night and I hope that changes

  5. Sally says:

    Oh where do I begin ? Number 1 if you don’t like Lebron James, you either are jealous of him, you are a fan of another team, you are not old enough to make an adult decision, are not adult enough to at least respect him as an individual who works beyond his means and does not carry an attitude, like a few other super stars or your just plain stupid. Yes they will be there in the finals and they will be fresh and healthy,not burnt out and unhealthy like the Warriors are going to be. He said he would bring a championship to Cleveland and that’s exactly what he will do, if not this year (which is doubtful) then next year. Go Cavs !!!

  6. johnnytc1 says:

    @RB…. It that your whole vocab? “Hater” Da self proclaimed king makes himself a target for all the critisism. He lacks leader ship skills, is all in it for da king, try to run the cav’s. If da king worked for someone else he’d get fired. da king and da cav’s are in lot’s of trouble. They’re a little above average team with the highest salary cap.. They’re paying average players huge salries so they are stuck with these players and their salaries for years to come. Why do you think da king only signs short term deals? Because he b takin his talents somewhere else soon…. You poor king fans… Not looking too good….

  7. guy says:

    True, the Cavs have lots of star power but at the end of the day no chemistry. No flow and I charge that to Lebron’s leadership. I see several East teams building strong momentum and chemistry, the Heat being the main contender. Experience in the post season is a huge factor, and you have all that in Wade and Bosh and Anderson and a few others. And they have depth. They are old, so they just have to stay healthy into the postseason. But they have some strong young talent as well. Boston is coming up strong too. I think they might go ahead and snap this GS, with or without Kay Thompson. They play physical aggressive ball which is what works best against the Warriors.

  8. DH says:

    way too early to be making finals predictions, cavs could absolutely meltdown, celts could get boogie at the deadline and be amazing, atlanta could find that groove again that made them undefeated in january, chicago could finally put it together, you have no idea what is going to happen and yes the cavs are probably the best team in the east, but saying they are a lock for the finals is very short sighted.

  9. taekayo says:

    Yes, it is true that there would be only a few teams that can beat CLE in a 7 game series. If last year was an indication, a healthy CLE roster this year would prove to be more dangerous. The key to beat the Cavs though is to make them rely too much on LBJ. All of LBJ’s losses in the playoffs and finals always happen if he carry most of the load. So far, none of the other east teams has shown that much firepower and defense for that to happen. Let’s see how things would go as the season progresses.

    If CLE was in the west though, the 2nd round would be too deep for them.

    • robert says:

      @TAEKAYO – HOW WONT THE CAVS GET OUT OF THE SECOND ROUND IN THE WEST!!??!?!?? THEY JUST BEAT THE GRIZZLIES BY 40 OR 50 AND ON TOP OF THAT THE WEST IS NOT THAT GOOD RIGHT NOW… CURRENTLY THE 7 SEED IN THE WEST IS HOUSTON AND THEY ARE UNDER 500 THE GRIZZLIES ARE 3 GAMES OVER 500 AND UTAH IS UNDER 500 AT THE 8 SEED, IN THE EAST ALL THE TEAMS IN THE PLAYOFFS HAVE A WINNING RECORD, THE ONLY TEAMS THAT CAN BEAT THE CAVS IN A SERIES ARE THE WARRIORS, SPURS, AND THUNDER… NOBODY ELSE PERIOD. ONCE KYRIE GET BACK THE CAVS WILL TAKE OFF AND BEAT EVERY TEAM IN THE WEST. IF HE WAS HEALTHY LAST YEAR, EVEN WITHOUT KEVIN LOVE THE CAVS WOULD BE NBA CHAMPIONS RIGHT NOW. WITH LOVE THE WARRIORS WOULDN’T HAVE A CHANCE WITH SMALL BALL BECAUSE THAT WOULD HAVE FAVORED THE CAVS(MY OPINION)

      • G-man says:

        First off you still can’t compare the east against the west even though the record suggest so. The west have teams who are proven and are basically better than most east teams. They may be struggling right now but heck once they get their groove its a whole lot different. The cavs will have trouble against SPURS,GSW,OKC,ROCKETS(well we’ll see),CLIPPERS and basically that’s half of the west playoff teams. either of those 4 teams mentioned above can beat any team in the east. PERIOD. well i’m a spurs fan. just sayin

  10. The Hawks will soar to the first seed then beat the Cadavaliers in the Leastern Conference Finals. I will stay on the bandwagon and be the keeper of the kool-aide. Let’s Go Hawks!!!!!

    • courtsideguy says:

      lol now thats comedy

    • sally says:

      In the end all you haters will eat your words, If he said he’s going to win a championship in Cleveland, then that is what he will do. Hide and watch !!!! He come a hair of doing it last year, so what do you think will happen this year ??? Get real people ……Go Cavs !!

  11. Raptor4Life says:

    For some perspective, let’s look at some team payrolls for this season (salary “cap” is $70,000,000) and since this article is about the East we will only consider teams in that conference:

    Cavaliers – $110,115,352
    Heat – $ 90,269,303
    Bulls – $ 89,024,375
    Nets – $ 83,332,110
    Wizards – $ 81,495,782
    Celtics – $ 77,554,204
    Pistons – $ 76,654,794
    Hornets – $ 76,612,845
    Knicks – $ 73,780,604
    Pacers – $ 72,146,260
    Raptors – $ 71,969,710
    Hawks – $ 71,547,369
    Bucks – $ 71,376,461
    Magic – $ 68,460,002
    76’ers – $ 59,880,796

    Source for payrolls : Basketball Insiders http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-team-salaries-at-a-glance/

    Hmmm…. seems to be a little bit of disparity there, but one thing is dramatically clear. The “de facto” General Manager / Director of Player Personnel for the Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James – is determined to buy himself at least another ring!

    Larry Bird has demonstrated that he can build a good team without simply “throwing money at it”. The Pacers probably show the best “bang for the buck” in the East.

    It is really too early in the season to be talking about who has a “lock” on anything…. all it takes is a critical injury to a key player to change everything for several (if not all) franchises. Imagine if LeBron gets hurt – does Cleveland remain in this conversation? Even with Kyrie and Iman back healthy, I doubt the Cavs win the East without LeBron. With their entire roster available, the Cavs will still face challenges from Chicago and Indiana. Unless the Bulls implode, I can see them in the Eastern Conference Finals. Overall, I think they are the greatest obstacle for the Cavaliers this season.

    The Western team trying to buy their way in?
    Clippers have the next highest payroll to the Cavaliers at $ 96,452,986 – but with Balmer willing to pay TWO BILLION for the franchise, this should come as no surprise….

  12. Jennay says:

    They will win the east, anyone who says otherwise loves to hate LeBron, it’s so played out. I’m literally just calling it how it is….the cavs will take the east.

  13. Angel says:

    WOW! I think all you guys are wrong. You give the Cavs way too much credit as the team that will come out of the East. Lebron James is a one-man-team within himself, because he only thinks of himself and they don’t play team basketball. He’s selfish (getting better), self-centered, no defensive playing, rebounds fall into his hands, finger pointing, blame his teammates prima donna. I think you writers and critics think James is the savior of all things basketball…NOT! I have no respect for him because he left his team in search of a ring (got it) now he wants to give his old team a chance. Huh? The truly great ones (Jordan, Kobe, Magic, Bird, etc.) did not abandon their teams. Their championship teams were built around them. I don’t get this love affair you guys have with him….I have gone to my optometrist and my eyesight is 20/20…and I still don’t see what’s so great about him.

    Even with a healthy Cavs team, I believe it will be another team (hopefully, the Bulls) that will get its act together before June and take over the East.

    • Jason says:

      That’s a little hateful. Lebron has done a lot of finger pointing the last 2 years, but I would never call him a selfish player or a bad defender. I think the east comes down to the heat or cavs, but if the cavs face the warriors, spurs or maybe even the thunder they have a serious chance of losing. The cavs just don’t have the personnel with love and Irving on the floor to defend against those high caliber offenses week can stick with you on the other end, although the thunder currently aren’t a good defensive team

    • kelvin says:

      haha.. its amazing how the wagon seekers play it, basically in the east which ever team lebron plays for will win it in the east. what about the Bulls, Boston, Miami Atl Wizards, maybe the pistons now.. all they saying is when Kyrie comes back and Lebron and Love come on now haha.. it is what it is, i no they wont come out the east. then we’ll hear what they say then… oh lets fast forward, next year itll be the same talk The cavs winning the east smh

    • nick g says:

      5 straight trips to the finals does not happen to “prima donna” players or whatever youre trying to say. he carried cleveland and got 0 help from his GM bringing in guys like delonte west and jamario moon. cleveland let lebron walk. they gave him no help and he lifted that team and that city to new heights. i can tell youre just jealous or hateful.

  14. Mary says:

    Any team but Cleveland. Cleveland has a lack of true reliable leadership when it counts.

  15. Mike says:

    Le Bron signs life time deal with Nike.

    Is this not the same guy who told everyone that Miami would win 6 championships and then bailed…….
    Why is this even news…