Posted by Neil Paine on April 16, 2009
Coach: Mike Brown
Last NBA Title: None
5-Year Playoff Record: Won 5 Series, Lost 3, 1 Final, 0 Titles
Championship Odds: 41.2%
Key Question: Is this the year they overcome the "one-man show" perception?
Regular Season: Bolstered by the addition of Mo Williams and an historic season by LeBron James, the Cavs went from being a decent Eastern Conference team to the best squad in the entire NBA. They jumped out to an impressive 40-11 record before the All-Star break, and really turned it on down the stretch, playing .860+ ball since mid-February. During the regular season, Cleveland lost just twice at home, coming within one game of tying the '86 Celtics' mark for the NBA's best-ever home record.
Prime-Time Players: 1. LeBron James. The fortunes of the entire franchise have rested on James' shoulders since the day he was drafted, and he has flourished under that pressure. He's the game's best player right now, and has proved himself to be more than a capable playoff performer (just ask the Wizards). Look for him to be the engine that drives a Cleveland to a deep playoff run.
2. Mo Williams. In his first season in Cleveland, Williams finally offered LeBron a strong second option, and the results in the win column were undeniable. His ability to knock down jumpers and keep defenses from devoting 100% of their energy to stopping James is going to be one of the key factors for the Cavs as they mount their playoff charge.
3. Delonte West. West had his best season as a pro in 2009, despite battling through a variety of injuries. When he's healthy, he can do a little bit of everything for this team -- especially on defense, where he's been a big reason why the Cavs have the 3rd-best D in the land.
But don't count on... Ben Wallace. Wallace has had a renaissance season this year, but he's also frequently been injured and has struggled with knee problems down the stretch. I wouldn't expect a lot out of the creaky 34-year-old during what should be a long and arduous playoff run.
Why they can win: They have the league's best player, its most balanced team, and a deep roster that looks tailor-made for the playoffs (the formula: surround a superstar with role players who can make shots when called upon). They also have the experience of the 2007 Finals run to fall back on. Simply put, this was the best team in the NBA during the regular season.
Why they can't win: James can still be contained to some degree if you force him to be a jump shooter, so you can bet teams like Boston, Orlando, and L.A. are going to make LBJ prove he can knock down Js before acquiescing to The King.
X-Factor: Home court advantage. Cleveland's got it in spades, and until someone proves they can beat the Cavs on the road, they will be the favorites to win it all.
|Cavs vs.||Off.||Def.||Reb.||Coach||Exp.||The Skinny||Prediction|
|Atlanta||X||X||X||X||X||Hawks a poor man's Cavs & it shows||Cavs in 5|
|Boston||X||Push||Push||Could come down to home-court advantage||Cavs in 7|
|Chicago||X||X||X||X||X||Cleveland has every advantage here||Cavs in 4|
|Detroit||X||X||X||X||Detroit an aging shell of former selves... Cavs roll||Cavs in 4|
|Miami||X||X||X||X||X||Cavs better on paper, but Wade could defy odds||Cavs in 5|
|Orlando||X||Push||X||X||LBJ gives Cavs edge in defensive struggle||Cavs in 6|
|Philadelphia||X||X||X||X||No contest, Cleveland dominates at both ends||Cavs in 4|
(Key: "X" = Advantage; blank = disadvantage)