If NBA teams were fictional characters, the Cleveland Cavaliers would definitely be Hamlet after he got kicked out of the kingdom. After being trounced last year in the Finals by the Golden State Warriors, fans and pundits doubted the Cavs’ ability to reclaim the throne.
Now that the Cavs are here, however, they have a chance to vanquish the ghosts of the past and take their rightful spots as kings of the realm.
That may sound crazy given their competition is Golden State, who beat Cleveland the two times the teams met this season. But since then, the Cavaliers have matured and become possibly the only team in the league capable of stopping the juggernaut from Oakland.
The two biggest differences between this year’s Finals roster and last year’s is the presence of healthy star players Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The point guard and power forward were key in luring LeBron James to Ohio after his stint in Miami, but injuries prevented them from playing in the championship matchup against the Warriors last year. The Cavaliers were knocked off in six games.
Now that they are healthy, however, Cleveland may finally have a chance to match Golden State’s offensive prowess blow for blow. With 106.9 points per game, they have the eighth highest scoring team in the league. They are also stout defensively, with the fourth best mark in the league at holding opponents from scoring.
Although the trio of James, Irving and Love has been impressive, role players like Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Channing Frye, Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and Richard Jefferson will all play a crucial role. This is a team that is fast, can shoot from anywhere on the floor and knows how to play together. As they have shown in this year’s playoffs, where they have only lost two games, they are capable of becoming monsters on the court any given day. All they have to do is execute.
With that being said, this series will start and end with one person for Cleveland: LeBron James. He left the comfort of South Beach to try to claim a title for his hometown, and it’s beginning to feel like now or never for The Chosen One. With the threat of a Golden State dynasty looking more and more like reality than fiction, James only has a few years left in his prime to prove he is the best player in the world.
Make no mistake, if Cleveland is going to do this, it will be hard. They’ve shown sloppy play at times and have gaps in their armor. If they’re going to win, the Cavaliers will have to play perfect basketball on the road to steal at least one game in Oakland and defend their home court with a relentless fervor.
Still, if LeBron can be as great as we’ve seen him to be and his supporting cast can do their jobs, the Cavaliers just may have a shot at slaying basketball’s newest giants.
Prediction: Cavs in six