Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Let's start with the team with the best record in the NBA: the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have the best home record in the league. As a team that has the best record in the league, this can be used to create a substantial advantage if they are to clinch home court throughout. The team's role players seem to play much better at home, which creates for a calmer style of play which is what Cleveland thrives in. A 31-1 home record at the time of this post speaks for itself in terms of where the team's main strength lies. Contrary to many people's beliefs, the team is actually very experienced in the postseason. Mike Brown has been criticized as an inept coach who plays too slow for LeBron James' style, but under Brown the team has a 26-20 postseason record with an NBA finals berth to boast of. His emphasis on the defensive side of the ball and ability to keep the games close has always made this team better in the postseason. They have proven that they can win on the road and at home in the playoffs and when you have arguably the best player in the league on your side, putting the ball in his hands in a close game is a successful formula in the postseason.
Speaking of LeBron James, how can we not mention him as the team's main strength. He does a lot for this team and he allows for the other players on the squad to fly under the radar and simply do what's asked of them since so much is put on LeBron's plate. The fact that LeBron presumably plays with nobodies works to the Cavs' favor. Other teams at least have two players who are considered stars, the fact that the Cavs only have one allows the other players to quietly do their job, which is why they're the least flashy of the top four teams in the league. Furthermore, the team has a solid bench and fantastic three point shooting. Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, Wally Szczerbiak, Anderson Varejao and now Joe Smith provide a solid list of role players coming off of the bench. None of them will blow you away, but on any given night the Cavs can rely on at least one person off of the bench to step up. Furthermore, Gibson has proved he will do it in the postseason.
The team is very small. Let's face it, Delonte West and Mo Williams are both undersized for a two guard spot and since they both start, one of them has to play that role. LeBron James is the primary ball handler so on offense that's not an issue. On defense, however, a small lineup can come back to cause problems when you have games going down to every possesion in the playoffs. I don't think it will kill them, but it doesn't help on the defensive side of the ball. And the Cavaliers have a nice list of big guys on the team, but none of them aside from Zydrunas Ilgauskas are capable of taking over a game offensively. In addition to Big Z being the only big capable of scoring in bunches, he rarely scores inside the paint. In fact, aside from LeBron, nobody on this team thrives around the basket. When you're a jump shooting team, it can cause frustration and lots of problems if you have a two or three game stretch where the shots simply aren't falling.
Why They Will Win It:
The Cavaliers have a very unselfish star in LeBron James and are the most efficient team at home in the league. They run a very structured offensive and defensive scheme and that means the team will rarely make mistakes in the postseason. LeBron James has done a lot for this team and will continue to do so in the playoffs. Mike Brown knows how to coach his players in the postseason and this team (like the Spurs) plays a very playoff brand of basketball. They can get hot and cl inch home court, which would allow them to have the fast track towards a championship.
Why They Won't Win It:
Overeliance on LeBron was a problem in the Boston series last year, but other players stepped up. Although one is guaranteed to play well every night, they will need consistent efforts from somebody. They may not get that. The team's lack of presence around the paint is bad enough as it is, but the fact that two of their big men (Vareajo and Ben Wallace) are so inept on offense that they're essentially non factors will allow teams to focus on stopping the Cavs are the perimeter, or even allow bigs to guard the basket for when LeBron makes his drives.
The Cavaliers are built for playoff basketball. They're not going to sweep anybody, they never will. But the fact that they are tough to beat at home and that they play great defensive basketball are both things that are crucial in the postseason. They're a disciplined squad and won't really kill themselves. Some nights they won't be able to beat you, but they will never beat themselves. They have as good a shot as anybody to win the NBA championship this season.
Coming Next: The Los Angeles Lakers