The Cleveland Cavaliers had a tumultuous month of January, some would even call it disastrous. They lost 13 of 19 from Christmas day, to the end of January. Lebron didn’t look like himself, and the locker room was in disarray. To make matters worse they lost Kevin Love, to a broken hand, for 8 weeks. Then came the dreaded trade deadline, and here’s the recap.
Trade 1: CLE trades PG Isaiah Thomas, PF Channing Frye & CLE 2018 1st Rounder to LAL to PG Jordan Clarkson, PF Larry Nance Jr.
#2: CLE trades PG Derrick Rose, SF Jae Crowder to Jazz, SG Iman Shumpert, Miami 2020 2nd Rounder to Kings for Utah’s SG Rodney Hood and SAC’s PG George Hill
#3: CLE trade SG Dwyane Wade to Miami Heat for 2020 2nd round pick
Getting Back On Track
Cleveland desperately needed change. It just wasn’t working out between Lebron James, Love, Wade and Thomas. The fiery team meetings, terrible flow on the court and overall awful basketball being played were all huge factors. Cavs GM Koby Altman needed to step up and do his job, and boy did he do it. In one fell swoop, the team became younger, and better defensively. Since the trade took place, the Cavs are 3-0 with a complete blowout on the road versus Boston and an OT win versus the T-Wolves.
Is the Number 1 Seed possible?
Looking at the field in the East, it is feasible to get the 1-seed. The Cavs sit 6.5 games behind Toronto for the 1-seed, and 4.5 games behind Boston for the 2-seed. The way Lebron James has been playing this season, counting out the Cavs isn’t an option either. Since the trade went down, LBJ looks invigorated and rejuvenated. Against Minnesota he posted 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in a win. Then, against Atlanta, he has 22 points, 19 assists (career high), and 12 boards. Kyle Korver is again finding his earlier form, finishing possessions with much needed 3-pointers. Low and behold, FINALLY, JR Smith is looking like the man we’ve become accustomed to in Cleveland. In the last 5 games he’s averaging 14.5 ppg, and 3.6 made 3’s a game.
How Does This Help Versus Golden State
The Cavs have added youth and depth to their roster. They now have defensive minded wings, good shooters and of course the best basketball player in the world, Lebron James. Although having James is the X-Factor, it’s more about everyone else matching up against the formidable Warriors. George Hill is an underrated defender in the NBA. He has length which helps him disrupt passing lanes, and contest shots. Rodney Hood is a younger, more athletic upgrade over Jae Crowder. He is also long, and defends well, but can also stroke it from distance. Lebron James, of course, will battle it out with KD, the 2nd best player in the world. That matchup is almost even. The matchup of Kevin Love and Thompson/Nance versus Green/Bell and Pachulia is also pretty even, with the overall defensive impact leaning towards Draymond.
The Cavaliers have no shortage of offense, but need to focus on the defensive end. No team has won the NBA title and NOT been in the Top 10 of Defensive efficiency. When the Cavaliers won in 2016, they ranked 10th in defensive efficiency.
Overview and Prediction
The East won’t be an easy task with the Celtics and Raptors, but the Cavs should prevail. Having Lebron James is really the biggest factor in the equation. The Celtics have shown they can’t beat a Cavs team firing on all cylinders, and the Raptors haven’t yet played a Cavs team of that nature.
The Cavaliers will prevail in the Eastern Conference, beating BOTH the Celtics and the Raptors. They will move on to the Conference Semis in 4-1 fashion, then beating the Raps in 4-2 style, finally beating Boston in 4-2 style as well. Convincingly, the Rockets will prevail in the West, with the exception of Golden State beating them 2 games in the Conference Finals.
All in all, Cleveland will take home the title in 7-game fashion against the Houston Rockets. The additions made to the Cavs at the trade deadline will help boost Lebron and the Cavs to their 2nd title in 4 years.