The Cleveland Cavaliers are $2.50 favourites to win the East (at the time of writing) and deservedly so – at full strength, no team can come close to matching them. But the problem is, this team has already been decimated by injuries and other offcourt issues and we’re only in October. Firstly, Anderson Varejao continued the annual tradition of playing less than half a season before getting a long term injury (seriously, the guy has played over 31 games in just one season since 2010). To add to this, Kevin Love was injured in the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics, a cruel injury considering the Cavs would’ve been an incredibly destructive team at full strength. These two injuries to key big men made it extremely difficult for the Cavaliers to compete with the juggernaut that was the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, eventually going down 4-2. But wait, there’s more! Kyrie Irving, a top 20 player and a top five Point Guard, went down with a fractured knee cap in the first round of the finals. Wow, that’s unlucky.
To add to this smattering of injuries, the Cavs had also been unable to come to terms with Tristan Thompson on a contract until they recently agreed to a five year, $82 million deal. The Cavaliers had been unwilling to meet these terms and a deal had not been recorded until the 22nd of October and as such, Thompson sat out every preseason game the Cavs have played. This caused turmoil for the players, but if Thompson were not on the Cavs, it would be hard to see them winning the NBA Finals. The argument can be made that with Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov and Anderson Varejao as big men, plus LeBron James to play minutes at the four, the Cavs don’t have minutes for Thompson anyway. I categorically disagree with this theory and based on what we’ve seen even as recently as the NBA Finals, when Love and Varejao were unavailable, Thompson is pivotal to this team and the Cavs needed to pay the $82 million to keep him. On the court, Thompson is more valuable to the Cavs than he is to any other roster. His offensive rebounding provides plenty of second chance opportunities for the Cavs and his ability to play either Power Forward or Centre provides plenty of lineup flexibility. Against potential NBA Finals opponents like the Spurs (Aldridge, Duncan, West), Clippers (Griffin, Jordan, Smith) or Grizzlies (Randolph, Gasol, Wright), the Cavs need as much frontcourt depth as possible.
Overall, the Cavs should enter the season as favourites – overwhelmingy so if they can come to terms with Thompson. Another season for Kevin Love to find his place in their offense and a full season for JR Smith, Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert as well as offseason addition Mo Williams should fuel Cleveland with plenty of depth and scoring power to overcome anyone in their road. Let’s just hope they’re healthy.
Projected Record: 62-20
My Predicted Wins: 54-59
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