Toronto Raptors Eastern Conference Preview: A Look at the Cleveland Cavaliers


Sizing Up the 2014-15 Eastern Conference’s Potential

Who is the favourite to win the Eastern Conference next season? Many experts can’t answer this question. Where do the Toronto Raptors fit into everything? It’s hard to answer this question, too.

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Everybody has a chance. Well, mostly everyone does… perhaps omitting Milwaukee from the conversation, but even they must be more excited than last year (but everything is relative, right?). But “mostly everybody” has a strong case for their team. Maybe we should review every team starting with how they finished last year?

This column will be a regular feature, looking at the NBA’s Eastern Conference and projecting where each contending team will finish. It begins at the top of the standings from 2013-14 and looks at the conference from the perspective of the Raptors.

Cleveland: Well, here’s a fun one. As said before, the door is wide open for any Eastern Conference team to step up, and why can’t it be the Cavs? Before July 11th, this question couldn’t have been answered positively for Cleveland. But now, obviously with the signing of LeBron James, Cleveland is automatically good… real good. LeBron has won the Eastern Conference so multiple times in a row, so automatically, LeBron may very get another victory from of the Eastern Conference.

Aug 26, 2014; Independence, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers player Kevin Love holds up his jersey at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Actually, I was picking Cleveland to finish first before the acquisition of Kevin Love. I thought that James, Andrew Wiggins, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, and Anderson Varejao were quite enough. I thought this surrounding cast was better than in Miami. These guys mentioned are on the upswing. On the other hand, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and even Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are unquestionably on the down-swing of their careers. But that is a moot point or argument. Back to my point, with this organization acquiring Love, a star center in his prime, almost bolded my pick of Cleveland at number one.

The potential bad: Okay, Chicago is now good. If they weren’t considered that before, they’re really good now. Derrick Rose is now healthy (Bulls’ fan are knocking HARD on wood reading that… or cursing me for possibly jinxing it), and they also acquired a decorated winner in Pau Gasol. So Chicago is major on the upswing. They were decent without these two, but now with them, watch out – they’re a serious contender. However, if I bring up Chicago as a possible threat, I should also dismiss Indiana, the defending Central Division champs as unlikely threats with some bad luck plaguing at their team.

Jun 26, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) smiles as he is interviewed after being selected as the number one overall pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2014 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The potential good: In the first paragraph, I already said it. The Cavaliers re-gained LeBron! And that triggered the deal for Love. So the Cavs gain two All-Star players, which is obviously monumental. This makes a big three in Cleveland – point guard Irving, forward James, and center Love – and I think this is much better than the three in Miami… but lest we forget, that’s right now and in hindsight. It’s hard to say any trio tops James, Wade, and Bosh while they were in their prime, before they assembled on one squad.

LeBron James – “The Decision”

At any rate, LeBron has joined a big three before so has experience with it. And he’s matured since his “Decision” from his time and experience in Miami. He’s not a kid anymore – he has kids. Some people say kids need to go to college for the experience and to get away from home for a while. How long was LeBron in Miami? And what age did he go there at? The argument could be made that going to Miami was like going to college for James.

Now he is ready for the real world, Cleveland. Take that line however you will…

More potential bad: GEL. About the only bad thing for Cleveland, this is a thing. It takes time to gel. But let’s bongo! We live to tell. Come together now… yeah let’s gel. It does take some time. History? How about the last time LeBron shifted teams. In 2010, when LeBron took his talents to South Beach, the big three got off to an 8-14 start. Does anyone remember that? No they don’t… but it happened. Why don’t they remember that?

Because they finished 58-24 (a 50-10 finish) and won the Eastern Conference. That’s how you forget about an 8-14 start. It took Miami 22 games to figure it out. It could be harder for the Cleveland three to gel considering only one has won anything before. Remember, Wade had a championship to his name before LeBron, and Bosh had an Atlantic Division crown with the Raptors. By comparison, Love and Irving have won absolutely nothing. Zero. Does that mean it’ll take longer to gel?

Apr 11, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) drives for a shot during the first quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

More potential bad: Okay, this is obviously a reach… and isn’t bad for short-term legitimacy (so possibly this point should be missed by this article entirely, as this series is solely for this season’s preview). Cleveland jeopardized the future for right now. Again, this isn’t necessarily bad, and actually is great for right now. But Cleveland gave up two first overall draft picks – Canadians Bennett and Wiggins (pictured, above, in hat) respectively – to land Love. As a Canadian, I wish the Cavs replaced one of the above (likely the less-heralded, Bennett, as Wiggins was the centre-piece) with Dion Waiters, who foolishly said he didn’t want to give up his starting role – which, personally, I think should’ve punched his ticket out. But I digress… at least Cleveland kept Tristan Thompson.

Last year’s Eastern Conference regular season rank: 10th place

Apr 5, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson (13) dunks the ball in the third quarter against the Charlotte Bobcats at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s potential pre-season FS rank: 1st place

I said that the Bulls may have the highest range in the Eastern Conference. About the same goes for Cleveland. I also give them first to fourth (likely 1st or 4th), but 1st-4th is a reasonable projection. I pick the Cavs first… but I’m giving them a range of fourth just in case the team struggles to gel. But I think they’ll figure it out eventually. The Cavs are a trendy pick, but probably the best pick to win the Eastern Conference… just look at the talent. DONE.

Click here to return to the intro page, which includes links to the rest of the preview series.