Written by: Josh Gutbrod
This past week, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Philadelphia 76ers in seemingly embarrassing fashion. A double-digit home loss to a potential playoff opponent is never a good look for any franchise, but should the Cavaliers be questioning their status as the kings of the Eastern Conference?
Similar doubts surfaced around the Cavaliers organization earlier in the season during the team’s struggles which led to a mass exodus out of Believeland at last month’s trade deadline. The team got younger, more athletic, and managed to dump defensively challenged point guard Isaiah Thomas off of the Lakers. Now, with Kevin Love injured, JR Smith throwing soup, and Cavs Nation realizing their new arrivals are still developing as young players, the organization finds its dominance over the East in question again.
The Eastern Conference is certainly better. Philadelphia has put together a possibly monstrous duo in budding superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Toronto suddenly has a dynamic bench to go with its talented backcourt and of course a Kyrie Irving-led Celtics squad is plenty dangerous. Even a team such as Indiana, loaded with youth and athleticism, is more than capable of making some noise this postseason.
Yet the Cavaliers have one thing nobody else in the Eastern Conference has. The Cleveland Cavaliers, of course, have LeBron James. The undisputed best player in the world does not play for Indiana, nor Boston or Toronto. He plays his basketball in Cleveland, OH. The second best player, of course, plays his ball out in the Bay for the defending NBA Champions.
I take nothing away from what Philadelphia, Indiana, or any other team in the Eastern Conference is doing. That being said, only one player in the NBA is even close to the level of LeBron James. That player, Kevin Durant, will not see LeBron in the playoffs until the two meet in the NBA Finals for a third time.
The Cavaliers jump back into action tonight at home against a Denver team hungry to keep pace in a heated Western Conference playoff race. After the defeat at the hands of the Sixers, look for a huge night from James as he looks to get his supporting cast more involved. Remember, when you’re the King, the regular season is really just 82 games of practice time. Whether the Cavaliers are the top seed or scrap out the final spot, LeBron James and company will be meeting the best of the West in the Finals for a fourth straight year.