When people think of the Cleveland Cavaliers, they automatically think of one name. Of course, that name is LeBron James. If LeBron never played for the Cavs, then they never would’ve won all the division titles that they have (they’re all compiled into one banner). The Cavs wouldn’t have all the Eastern Conference Championship banners that are hanging in the rafters of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (RMFH). Certainly, there wouldn’t be a 2016 NBA Champions banner hanging at RMFH. As you can see, a majority of the accomplishments the Cavs have had in franchise history is because of LeBron James.
When James picked up and left to head down to South Beach to link up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for the Miami Heat, it sent the Cavaliers into a total tailspin. The one benefit of that tailspin is that it allowed the Cavaliers to draft Kyrie Irving first overall in the 2011 NBA Draft followed by Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 Draft. They both became integral parts of the 2016 championship team.
But overall, the Cavs haven’t been able to find a true identity in either post-LeBron James era. That is until this season where the Cavs have been the darlings of the Eastern Conference as they are currently sitting in the Top 6. Being in the Top 6 means that the Cavs would automatically qualify for the playoffs and they would avoid the play-in tournament. Even with all of the various moves the team made in the offseason, there’s no way anyone could’ve predicted this from the Cavs.
This type of thing usually happens in October and November where a team will get off to a surprising start and they look like they’re going to be legit. But by the time the end of December and early January roll around, they come crashing back down to Earth. However, that hasn’t been the case with these Cavaliers. They’ve been able to sustain their early season success and become a legitimate playoff contender.
The way this team is built makes this story especially interesting. The rest of the league has gone the route of position-less basketball and small ball. But the Cleveland Cavaliers basically said: “Screw your position-less basketball and small ball! We’re doing it our way.” The Cavaliers way is to have not one, not two, but three guys who are close to seven feet tall in the starting lineup. It shouldn’t be working nor should it be making sense, yet it’s both working and makes sense. What the heck?!
The Cavaliers shouldn’t even be within striking distance of first place in the Eastern Conference. Yet that’s exactly where they find themselves at this point in the season. Realizing this, the Cavs went out and made a trade for Caris LeVert from the Central Division rival Indiana Pacers. There are reports that LeVert could make his debut on Wednesday February 9th, 2022 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. My prediction is that eventually LeVert will replace Isaac Okoro in the starting lineup. But since Caris just got here, he’ll probably come off the bench so he can become more familiar with the offense.
For the Cavaliers to be doing this in the post-LeBron era is absolutely incredible. This is the first year that they’ve been able to find success without “King” James. Let’s just hope that it’s not a one and done.