The 2017 offseason was the wildest in NBA history. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are now Eastern Conference rivals. Out West, Chris Paul joined James Harden, while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony united with Russell Westbrook. Ten recent All–Stars changed uniforms, and we haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s strange summer, so let’s get to previewing. The 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us.
2016-17 finish: 51-31, Eastern Conference champions
• Offensive rating: 110.9 (3rd)
• Defensive rating: 108.0 (22nd)
Did the summer help at all?
Well, that depends.
It was an interesting summer, to say the least. The Cavs parted ways with GM David Griffin two days before the draft, failed to finalize a trade agreement for Paul George, lowballed and lost out on Chauncey Billups as their Griffin replacement, and then spent August shopping Irving following his shocking trade request. All that as rumors of LeBron James leaving in 2018 free agency persisted.
In Crowder, Rose, Green, Calderon and Osman, Cleveland theoretically upgraded a bench that ranked among the league’s worst last season and proved to be an Achilles’ heel against the Golden State Warriors. But the success of this summer, at least as far as 2017-18 goes, depends on the health of Thomas.
New GM Koby Altman refused to discuss Thomas’ hip injury or a timetable for his return, but if he can’t come back until the All-Star break, can’t return to All-Star form or (gulp) never plays in Cleveland at all, the Cavs didn’t just get worse — they may have lost their stranglehold on the East. If you thought LeBron’s pleas for “a f***ing playmaker” in January of last season were a cry for help, just wait until he spends the next few months operating in lineups with Rose or Calderon as his starting point guard.
Best-case scenario: LeBron submits an MVP-worthy season. Thomas returns earlier than expected, reaching his own MVP-caliber level. Crowder bolsters both Cleveland’s depth and defensive woes. Dwyane Wade comes on board. Altman flips picks and pieces for another All-Star talent. The Cavs challenge the Warriors in a fourth straight Finals, and everybody wants to run it back in 2018-19.
If everything falls apart: LeBron has one foot out the door. Thomas misses all or most of the season. Rose and Green complicate Cleveland’s chemistry. Crowder and J.R. Smith come to blows again. Irving unseats Cleveland on his way to the Finals, and both LeBron and Thomas leave in free agency. Yikes.
Best guess at a record: 54-28
Read all of Ball Don’t Lie’s 2017-18 NBA Season Previews:
Atlanta Hawks • Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Charlotte Hornets • Chicago Bulls • Cleveland Cavaliers • Detroit Pistons • Indiana Pacers • Miami Heat • Milwaukee Bucks • New York Knicks • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Toronto Raptors • Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Golden State Warriors • Houston Rockets • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Minnesota Timberwolves • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Utah Jazz
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