the focal point of an offense, but can do just about everything at a high level while being the eye of the storm. James is an extremely smart player who almost always makes the right decision. His ability to attack the basket is unmatched in the League today, and James has become smarter about when to attack and when to defer. His field goal percentage has increased for seven years in a row now, reaching a high of 56.7 percent last year, an insane number for a wing player. Opponents have to constantly account for James as a multi-dimensional threat. The best way to prevent James from scoring is to construct two layers of defense for James to get through, but that inevitably leaves open options for James to pass to—and James is a very intelligent passer. Having Love’s scoring ability, both from three-point range and in the low post, will be a tremendous complement to James’s skills. Love is the best kind of stretch four a team can have—a stretch four who is also very good at scoring in close range and is one of the League’s top rebounders as well. Then there’s Irving, a player who is also good at both attacking the basket and shooting from range. Irving is used to being the primary ballhandler on a team and will have to adjust to James taking that role, but Irving should be on the court whenever James rests and should be an excellent off-ball scorer as well. With those three players causing nightmares for opposing coaches and a strong roster full of complementary scorers, Cleveland should be an offensively dynamic team that often runs up the score. At this point, the only things that can stop them are injuries or egos. Otherwise, the Cavaliers are the favorite to have the most dominant offense in the NBA this season. Outlook While last year’s Eastern Conference boiled down to a contest between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers, this year’s Eastern Conference should be a battle between two different teams: the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have more continuity, a stronger defense, and an established head coach in Tom Thibodeau. The Cavaliers have none of those things. What the Cavaliers do have is the League’s most dominant player and two genuine offensive superstars to work with him. They have a head coach in Blatt who has been widely praised and successful at every level he’s ever coached, just not the NBA. That will take Cleveland deep into the playoffs, but even superstar teams have trouble winning championships in their first season playing together. The Cavaliers will make it to the final four, and possibly the Finals, but it’s most likely that they’ll fall short to one of the League’s elite teams in the postseason. Kyrie Irving, Mike Miller, James, Kevin Love David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images SPOTLIGHT: LeBron James Four years ago, LeBron James and his team worked together with ESPN to produce one of the most infamous one-hour specials in sports history: “The Decision.” When James told Jim Gray that he planned on “taking his talents to South Beach,” Cleveland fans felt like they had been stabbed in the back. James went on to win two championships with Miami while Cleveland fell out of playoff contention every year since James’ announcement. This year, however, James had a change of heart about what he wanted to do with his career. With Miami limping to an Finals loss to San Antonio, Dwyane Wade being a shell of his former self, and James feeling left alone as Miami’s only true weapon, he decided that this year was the time to return to Cleveland. By making this return, James has put a tremendous amount of pressure on himself to win now. That pressure has been amplified by James’ decision to sign only a two-year contract with Cleveland. That contract clearly was signed with an eye towards a future TV deal and an increased salary cap, but it does leave the door open for James to depart again if things don’t work out in Cleveland the next two years. For James and the Cavaliers, it’s important to figure things out very quickly. Even with a younger and livelier group of teammates, James will again be asked to carry an enormous burden. While James has proven he’s up to the task, the Cavaliers will have zero margin for error as they attempt to bring a championship to Cleveland.
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