With the way LeBron is playing, the Cavaliers seemed destined for the NBA Finals.
LeBron James has captained the Cleveland Cavaliers in MVP-like form to the best record in the Eastern Conference and they had the NBA’s best record for much of the season.
The reasons for their success are clear: LeBron finally has help on offense and the team’s overall defense has improved.
With Mo Williams able to go off for 30 points on any given night, Zydrunas Ilgauskas being steady inside and Delonte West giving an occasional spark the Cavs are a terror on offense.
With James doing his best to dominate on both ends of the court, his renewed focus on defense has energized his team to allow the fewest points during the regular season.
Yet the NBA playoffs are a time of year where upsets happen and teams make great runs.
Thus the question is, with the NBA playoffs starting on Saturday, who stands a chance of taking down Cleveland in the post-season?
One of the first teams to get a shot at King James and company will be Detroit. This year’s Pistons team is a lot different from years past as they struggled to get 40 wins.
One of the big things going against Detroit is a lack of scoring off the bench. With AI done for the year, pressure falls squarely on Antonio McDyess and Jason Maxiell to produce.
Even with Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince in the fold Detroit doesn’t have the sort of chemistry and toughness it had before that could give the Cavs fit.
The surprising Chicago Bulls aren’t much of a step up from Detroit. Sure Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon and Luol Deng can give any defense fits if they’re shooting good and firing on all cylinders.
But their toughness is suspect and they don’t have the size and presence inside to counter Big Z.
The Philadelphia Sixers could make things interesting if Reggie Evans and Samuel Dalembert are physical and active on both ends of the court.
But like last year, the team is a jump-shooting squad that relies on Andre Miller and Willie Green to make shots. The Cavs D is too good to give them room and time to work.
The Miami Heat have one big component that can disrupt the Cavs D: a dynamic scorer in Dwayne Wade. The NBA’s top scorer for much of the season, no one can put a team on his back and take over a quarter quite like Wade.
The key for the Heat though is the play of their young player. Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook all have to be on point to give Miami a chance.
An interesting team are the number four seed Atlanta Hawks. Phenomenal guard play from Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson has lead the Hawks back to the playoffs.
Their ability to thwart playoff teams lies squarely with their forwards and big men. Marvin Williams and Josh Smith need to score and be active on the boards and Al Horford has to be a bundle of energy on defense and in the paint.
Probably the key to Cleveland’s march to the NBA Finals lies with teams just below them in the East. Boston and Orlando are for real and have the depth on both sides of the court to be a tough out.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have grit and a solid supporting cast in Boston though Dwight Howard’s defense powers the Magic.