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Realistic Expectations for Cleveland in 2014-2015

LeBron James
The Decision 2.0 has come and passed and LeBron is heading back home. Four years after he broke acity's heart and won two title while appearing in four NBA Finals in Miami, LeBron decided to return to Cleveland, making the Cavs a heavy favorite for the NBA Finals in 2014-2015. Since LeBron left for the Heat, Cleveland had the lowest winning percentage in the NBA with a brutal .311 mark in that span. But, with LeBron and Andrew Wiggins (assuming the Cavaliers do not deal him to Minnesota in an attempt to land Kevin Love) it definitely appears the Cavaliers have the star power to win an NBA title. Before we get too excited, can the Cavs actually win an NBA title in the first year of LeBron's return? Are they really the best team in the NBA now?

LeBron never did win a title his first seven years with Cleveland, though he did make one lone appearance with them in the 2006-2007 season. That year, Cleveland's starting lineup was this: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron, Drew Gooden and Anderson Varejao. Of course, they were absolutely dominated by San Antonio in the Finals, but it proved just how much LeBron matters to a team. Immediately after LeBron's announcement, Las Vegas made him the favorite to win the title this next season. With the star power of LeBron, Kyrie Irving, Wiggins and possibly even Love (?) it certainly makes sense. But, wait just a moment, didn't a LeBron-led Heat team that was just as talented as this Cavs team is now, lose in five games to the Spurs in the Finals? And that Spurs team has everyone back including Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard along with important role players like Boris Diaw and Patty Mills. Additionally, the Thunder still have the reigning MVP Kevin Durant, a healthy Russell Westbrook and a quickly improving Serge Ibaka, the Rockets have James Harden, Dwight Howard and are likely to add Chris Bosh. Inside the East, a Bulls team with a healthy Derrick Rose is very dangerous and they could still add their own superstar in Carmelo. So, lets not carried away to quickly just because LeBron heads to Cleveland. Sure, if they add Kevin Love they add yet another superstar and will have all the pieces to win a title. They will have a stretch four that can open lanes for Kyrie's ability to get into the lane, and an impact player down low. But, right now, they are still probably the 2nd or 3rd best team in the NBA (before Carmelo decides) in my opinion.

Oh, and then there is the whole deal with the rookie head coach. Former Euroleague head coach David Blatt was a pretty surprising and unknown hire for the Cavaliers, and now he has to coach the best basketball player in the world and deal with a ton of scrutiny. Imagine the transition, moving from the Euroleague to the NBA with serious expectations for a title. Kyrie and LeBron have never played together and neither have ever played under Blatt so there will time to gel for all three. Early in his time with Miami, the Heat struggled because Bosh, Wade and LeBron all needed the ball. Finding an effective offense that uses Kyrie, LeBron and possibly even Love in the right way is an extremely difficult task. Though, Kyrie has supported Blatt, who is a great offensive mind and the coach appears ready to be up to this challenge.

Who knows, maybe in the next couple hours or days, K-Love could be the next big name Cleveland brings in. If that happens, there is no denying they are the best team in the NBA. But right now, the Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, Bulls are still going to be major threats. LeBron is smartly trying to dampen the expectations, saying he doesn't expect a championship this first year. He will bring one eventually, he is too talented not now to snatch up at least one ring while in Cleveland. But, unless they add K-Love or another major piece I don't think that championship will come right away.

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