The 2016-2017 NBA season is coming to an end, and while some teams are already locked into their spot in the playoffs or are looking towards the draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers are reeling. While it seems odd to think that a team, who at worst will finish number two in the East standings, is in a tough spot that is truly what’s happening. LeBron James and the Cavs finished March with a win percentage below .500. This is the second time this season they have finished below .500 in a month. They have seemingly decided to give up the number one seed.
Coach Tyronn Lue has continuously stressed the importance of having players healthy for a deep run in the playoffs all season long. While that statement is true, one would think that having home-court advantage over every team in the East would be something they’d want to keep. After holding onto the number one seed for most of the season, the Cavs relinquished it to the Celtics in late March. While a four-game win streak to start April seemed to get them back on track, including a huge win over the Celtics to regain first place, they again sit at number two.
So, fans have to be wondering, is this the year that LeBron finally doesn’t make it to the Finals? My guess is no. LeBron, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and company will make it to the Finals yet again for the simple reason that no other Easter Conference team can best the Cavs in a seven game series. Sure, we could see a six game set between the Cavs and Celtics in the East finals, but with the way the Cavs dismantled them just a few days ago, I don’t see any team posing a real threat.
It seems that most of the Cavs struggles stem from the lackluster defense that they have played nearly all season. In a stretch of 14 games during the month of March, they gave up at least 100 points in 12 contests. With those games and the absence of effort the team has shown for most of the season, their defensive efficiency was second worst in the league ahead of only the lottery bound Los Angeles Lakers.
Of course, there were a few games where they turned up the intensity. Take note of the last game against the Celtics, and you can see how dangerous this team can be. It is hard to doubt a team that has three superstars on the roster, including a player who has gone to Finals for six straight years and is having the best statistical season of his Hall of Fame career. Couple LeBron’s playoff efficiency and Tyronn Lue’s cryptic promises of a secret weapon they have yet to unleash, and it’s hard to think that the Cavs will not be competing for their second straight championship come June.
The only thing the Cavaliers should be worried about is when they eventually make it to the NBA Finals and are forced to square off against one of the Western Conferences powerhouse squads. As of right now, it looks like the NBA world is set to watch a grudge match that will feature the Golden State Warriors and the Cavs for the third straight year. The only team I can realistically see dethroning the Warriors is the Spurs as they sit firmly in the second seed and have handled the Warriors fairly well this season despite their latest loss.
My prediction is that we will in fact see the Cavs and Warriors face each other for another drama filled NBA Finals. The Cavaliers are too good to not step it up on defense when it counts the most, and with LeBron getting older by the day and his career eventually coming to an end, you know he will come out guns blazing. Barring an injury to any of the Cavs superstars or even their star-studded bench, I fully expect the Cavs to once again bulldoze their way to the NBA Finals.