Cavaliers 2018-19 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Predictions
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are no longer appointment viewing.
The Eastern Conference has revolved around LeBron James for the last eight years, but he changed that and dashed Cleveland’s championship hopes the moment he elected to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason.
A Cleveland squad that reached the last four NBA Finals will now be lucky to sniff the postseason after the greatest player in franchise history, and arguably basketball history, left for the Hollywood Hills.
Fortunately for the Cavaliers, the Eastern Conference playoff race is fairly wide-open outside of the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers. There are seeds for grabs, and Cleveland now knows the schedule it must navigate if it is going to reach the playoffs even without James.
Season Opener: Oct. 17 at Toronto
Championship Odds: 400-1 (via Odds Shark)
Full Schedule: NBA.com
Nov. 21 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
It’s not entirely fair to Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and some of the other veterans who provided important support during the last four NBA Finals trips and the 2016 championship, but this season in Cleveland is going to be framed around James’ departure.
After all, the hometown hero led the team to unprecedented heights with MVP-level play for years and even engineered the 3-1 comeback against the 73-win Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Finals.
The eyes of the entire basketball world will be set on Northeast Ohio when James makes his return to Cleveland for the first time in a Lakers uniform.
While Cavaliers fans burned his jersey and jeered him when he left for the Miami Heat, the reception figures to be much warmer this time around after he returned, led the team to a title, did incredible things for the community and even left the door open for an eventual return, per Tom Withers of the Associated Press.
The basketball will take a backseat, especially if Cleveland rolls out the red carpet and welcomes James with a video tribute and standing ovation prior to the contest.
When the game actually starts, it will be up to a Cavaliers squad that struggled on the defensive side for extended stretches last season to slow James and his new teammates and earn a victory at home.
Los Angeles may still be a year or two away from contending with the likes of the Warriors and Houston Rockets, but it will be the one with James in this contest and prevail in a game that will be remembered more for the pregame introductions than the on-court action.
April 5 at Golden State Warriors
James’ departure takes the sizzle out of this matchup, but it will still be a rematch of the last four NBA Finals.
Golden State won three of those Larry O’Brien Trophies, losing a mere one game in the last two Finals combined, and figures to dominate again this time around with the biggest obstacle Cleveland could throw at it now on the Lakers’ roster.
Warriors fans won’t take any mercy on a Cavaliers squad they are accustomed to seeing in high-pressure situations, though, and will surely have a welcome waiting for JR Smith given his mistake at the end of regulation in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals.
Cleveland was an ugly 29th in the league in defensive rating last season, per NBA.com, and doesn’t have the personnel necessary to match up with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
The Warriors should roll in this one on paper, but Cleveland can use it as a litmus test to see where it stands against the best the NBA has to offer. If it remains competitive, it can garner confidence moving forward into Eastern Conference battles that will have a more direct impact on the playoff picture.
Last time James left, the Cavaliers they went a mere 97-215 in four years, even with a young Kyrie Irving leading the way.
There is reason for optimism, though, and Cleveland fans won’t have to face that ugly of a stretch in 2018-19. Love is still on the team, and there are veteran options in Thompson, Smith, Kyle Korver and George Hill, as well as a potential building block in Collin Sexton.
Love put up 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in his final season on the Minnesota Timberwolves, which was also the last time he was a No. 1 option. While that was 2013-14 and a younger version of the UCLA product, don’t be surprised if Love stuffs the stat sheet yet again even without James around to attract opposing defenders and create openings.
A playoff-tested squad and an Eastern Conference schedule will help the Cavaliers avoid the disaster that was the first time James left, but this team will still struggle on defense without the King there to bail it out.
Record Prediction: 36-46
via Bleacher Report – NBA https://ift.tt/2gMI6gF
August 10, 2018 at 01:33PM