For the second consecutive year, LeBron James faced minimal scrutiny for his inability to obtain a championship. Rather, he has been raved for surpassing expectations and carrying his team as far as possible. Most of this praise appears to be wonted, considering his profound numbers and without of assistance from his teammates. According to ESPN, in the 2015 Finals, LeBron James averaged a preposterous 35.8 points, 8.8 assists, and 13.3 rebounds. Such principal all-around numbers would make already the all-time greats awe in amazement. With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving out due to injury, LeBron stunningly led a Cavaliers team with Timofey Mozgov as the second leading scorer, to two wins against a historically great Golden State team.
As flawless as LeBron James appeared to be in the Finals, there are aspects of his performance which should be critiqued. His incredible scoring numbers did not come with incredible efficiency, in fact, he shot a woefully inefficient 39.8% from the floor. Despite being known for his ability to always make the right basketball play, LeBron James had his fair proportion of ill-advised shots in this series. Also, as Hoops Habit notes, Cleveland always played their worst basketball in the fourth quarter. Had they had more impressive fourth quarters, the series could have gone the other way. Now, the complete onus for that shouldn’t fall on LeBron James, but he should be held responsible as the leader of the team. Finally, his principal defender, Andre Iguodala, won Finals MVP.
Similarly, last year, Kawhi Leonard won Finals MVP after guarding Lebron for a majority of the series’ possessions. That year, LeBron James and the Heat lost to the Spurs in the Finals by a record margin of 70 points. As lethal as those Spurs were, a team consisting of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Ray Allen shouldn’t be breaking records for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, LeBron James’ average of 28.2 points on 57.1% shooting, per Basketball-Reference, seem to supersede the failures of his team. However, this season, LeBron James won’t have the narrative of not having enough help to lean back on, should he fail to bring home that desired championship for Cleveland.
First and foremost, barring an unforeseen setback, the Cavaliers should be able to cruise to the NBA finals, as LeBron James has seemingly done for what seems like forever. In the 2015 playoffs, the Cavaliers, with Kevin Love out and a hobbled Kyrie Irving, only lost two games en route to LeBron James’ fifth consecutive trip to the Finals. Both those players should be comparatively healthy this upcoming season, and along with a revamped bench now consisting of Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson, the Cavaliers should be the heavy favorites in the East.
There will always be pundits who’ll argue that a team like Chicago or Miami has a chance, but it would be irrational to bet against the Cavs. Arguably, their greatest competition is a Bulls team whom he beat with Love and Irving injured. The Heat, although comprised of substantial options at every position, without the Cavaliers’ overall talent, and are too reliant upon an injury-inclined Dwayne Wade. consequently, LeBron James has no reason to not make his sixth consecutive Finals turn up.
However, if he fails to already bring his team to the finals, then he loses in addition another opportunity to enhance his position among the all time greats. He should be scrutinized, as other superstars have been, for not making it to the finals despite having the superior list. Though, this is all hypothetical, and more likely than not, LeBron James will confront the team that made it out of the brutal Western Conference.
The myriad of title contenders in the Western Conference instigates the perception that at all event team represents the West in the Finals is far superior to their East style. This perception has before provided LeBron James a leeway to escape criticism should he lose in the Finals. In fact, this perception seems to persist heading into the upcoming season. Teams like the Spurs, with their talent and thoroughness appear incapable of losing to an Eastern Conference foe in a seven game series. No one would blink an eye should the Warriors, Clippers, or the Thunder upend the Cavaliers in the Finals. already the Rockets would be given a fair shot.
In reality, the Cavaliers can realistically beat any of these teams in a series. As Bleacher Report notes, the Cavaliers had a exceptional 13-1 record against the Western Conference in the latter half of the last season. They have 3 of the top 20 players in the league in LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love. These three players formed the highest scoring trio in the league, per 247 Sports. Their bench, while not spectacular, is competent enough to give the Cavaliers the necessary thoroughness required to compete with these Western Conference adversaries. Most of all, they have one thing that no other team in the league possesses: the greatness of LeBron James.
His combination of otherworldly athleticism and elite basketball IQ provides the Cavaliers with all the elements they need to win a championship. For all his incredulous numbers in both regular season and the playoffs, to truly challenge Michael Jordan as the G.O.A.T, he needs to be proven capable of reforming a franchise, with a championship. Michael did it with the Bulls, Duncan with the Spurs, Kareem with the Bucks, Bird with the Celtics, and so on and so forth. Despite being the unquestioned leader of those Heat championship teams, Dwayne Wade was nevertheless the confront of the franchise. Now that he has all the pieces, there’ll be no excuses. It’s time to bring Cleveland its first championship in over 50 years.