Two Key Factors to a Successful Cleveland Cavaliers Season

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During the 2016-17 NBA season, headlines will be dominated by Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on a daily basis. However, having a super-team doesn’t guarantee a championship; just look at the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Everything can change and anything can happen in the NBA. A team can implode, the injury bug could strike, or a team simply might not play to its potential. In this Last Word On Pro Basketball series, we’ll break down which two key factors will determine the fate of each team in the upcoming season.

Today’s team in focus is the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Two Key Factors to a Successful Cleveland Cavaliers Season

After more than fifty years of futility, the Cleveland Cavaliers were crowned NBA champions last season. LeBron James proved yet again that he is ‘The King’ and the rest are mere peasants. The question now is: can the Cavs repeat? Two main factors will determine whether or not Cleveland can win its second straight title.

First Key: LeBron James Must Play at his Highest Level Consistently

There is little doubt that LeBron James is the greatest basketball player since Michael Jordan. If Jordan is Zeus, then James must be considered to be a demigod on Mount Olympus. James has led his teams (the Miami Heat and the Cavaliers) to six consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Only fellow immortal Bill Russell has done that. Previously, James led a nameless 2007 Cavaliers team to the Finals. Here’s a bit of trivia for you: try to name three teammates of James from that season.

Some Stats and Accomplishments of King James

James, for the uninitiated, is a four-time league MVP, three-time Finals MVP, 12-time All-Star, 12-time All-NBA team player, and six-time All-Defensive team player, among others. The man’s nickname is ‘King James’ for a reason. He averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 1.4 steals per game during the 2015-16 regular season. During the Finals, he turned up his performance to immortal-type numbers. He averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Those numbers made James the first player ever to lead the Finals in all five of the five major statistical categories. He also shot 49 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc. In short, he owned the Finals.

Journalists around the team speculate that the Cavaliers will try to convince James to play around just 60 regular season games in the upcoming season. That may take some convincing, as James will (hopefully) be heading into the season fully fit and rested, for the first time in many years.

Second Key: The Supporting Cast Must Keep Pace

Here’s the bottom line. As of the writing of this article, J.R. Smith remains unsigned, though he and the Cavs are in negotiations. The team already lost Mathew Dellavedova (signed with the Milwaukee Bucks), Mo Williams (retired), and Timofey Mozgov (signed with the Los Angeles Lakers) this off-season. It just goes to show that no championship-winning team keeps all of its pieces. Notable additions to the Cavs are center Chris Andersen – “Birdman” – and veteran sharpshooter Michael Dunleavy Jr.

Young Bloods Expected to Contribute

Due to a significant lack of depth at point guard, the Cavaliers signed veteran Toney Douglas. Additionally, they drafted Kay Felder out of Oakland University. Though he is listed at just 5’9″, Felder was fourth in scoring and first in assists per game at the NCAA Division 1 level. He is expected to be an immediate contributor.  Jordan McRae shone brightly in the NBA Development League last season, so he’ll also have high expectations thrust upon him. McRae and Felder looked impressive during the NBA Summer League in July, as well.

Returning Veterans

Richard Jefferson found the fountain of youth last season, but will he be able to contribute at the high level as before? Channing Frye was an inspirational acquisition at last year’s trade deadline. He must continue to be productive. Iman Shumpert needs to be better on the offensive end more often. Shumpert is excellent on defense but inconsistent offensively.

Conclusions

Cleveland’s regular season matters very little for James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. They are all focused on playing basketball late into June, and in the NBA Finals for a third consecutive season. Few expect this team to fall short of winning the Eastern Conference. There is no pressure on this team, as the Cavaliers have exorcised the demons of losing with their title last season. With that said, James is a very proud individual and he wants to win. James will make certain that all members of the 2016-17 Cavaliers are ready for competition.

 

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