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Cleveland Cavaliers: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018

In what could be his last season in Cleveland, is LeBron James' new-look Cavs team capable of reclaiming the championship?


Offseason Recap

Arrivals: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Ante Zizic, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Jose Calderon

Departures: Kyrie Irving, Dahntay Jones, James Jones, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams

This offseason was a crucial one for the Cavs. With LeBron James on the final year of his contract, this could very well be the last chance for Cleveland to compete for a championship for some time. 

However, they didn’t start it well. They let go general manager David Griffin. They tried and failed in their pursuit of superstar wings like Paul George and Jimmy Butler. They could only pick up veterans on the minimum in Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon, and Jeff Green. And crucially, Kyrie Irving was unhappy and requested a trade.

It took a while, but the Cavs got the deal they wanted. Cleveland made quite an unprecedented move by trading away four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving to their main conference rivals, the Boston Celtics, for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, and an additional second-rounder.

Even with Thomas expected to miss the first few months of the season, this was arguably the best possible deal the Cavs could’ve asked for the 25-year-old. Crowder can help their team immediately, and Thomas can make up for most of Irving’s offense when he returns. They also got some insurance for the future in the event of James’ departure with that Nets pick.

And to put the cherry on top, they got the bought-out Dwyane Wade, who will now reunite with his old friend LeBron James in what could potentially be James’ swansong in Cleveland.

Projected Depth Chart

C – Kevin Love / Tristan Thompson / Ante Zizic

PF – Jae Crowder / Channing Frye / Jeff Green 

SF – LeBron James / Kyle Korver / Cedi Osman

SG – J. R. Smith / Dwyane Wade / Iman Shumpert

PG – Derrick Rose / Isaiah Thomas / Jose Calderon / Kay Felder

Strengths

The Cavs have the best player in the world in LeBron James, for one more year, at least. A healthy James is basically a free ticket to the NBA Finals, which he has reached for an incredible seven consecutive years.

The combination of James surrounded by an army of three-point shooters has been the Cavs’ recipe for having an amazing offense over the last few years. Outside of the Houston Rockets, no team has been quite as prolific from beyond the arc as the Cavs.

Even with Irving no longer with the team and Thomas likely to be sidelined until 2018, Cleveland still have more than enough offense on the roster. Their plan to start Kevin Love at center for Tristan Thompson will add even more firepower to that starting unit.

With the additions of Crowder, Wade, Rose, and Osman, the Cavs have significantly beefed up their depth. At the very least, they should help the Cavs deal with the long grind of the regular season better.

Those added weapons should also give head coach Tyronn Lue more versatility and lineup options to mix and match depending on the opponent.

Weaknesses

The Cavs basically mailed in the majority of the regular season last year, and after seeing how easily they “flipped the switch” to reach the Finals, what’s stopping them from doing the same this year?

The Cavs’ defense was especially troubling during their prolonged malaise last season. They were second from bottom in terms of forced turnover rate last season while their defensive rebounding rate also took a precipitous dip from fifth to 22nd. They also continue to lack enough rim protection.

Cleveland were fine defensively during the East playoffs, but couldn’t nearly create enough stops against the Warriors in the Finals. But then they added a handful of additional questionable defensive players this offseason as they’ve basically bet big on their offense to be incredible enough to get them another championship. 

The offense could very well be that good, but with their defense as questionable as it is, it’ll need to be great. 

Player to Watch – Jae Crowder

The Cavs went hard for star wings like Jimmy Butler and Paul George early in the offseason. They struck out with both and got Crowder instead after he was included in the Kyrie Irving trade. However, Crowder isn’t just some throw-in to make the deal work. He’s got a chance to be an important part of this Cavs team this season.

Crowder’s positional versatility will allow him to play with James in the frontcourt and relieve the Cleveland star of the burden of defending the other team’s best forward. He’s also a capable three-point shooter who fits in really well with what the Cavs want to do on offense.

The Cavaliers went to war against the Warriors in the last two Finals with a seemingly over-the-hill Richard Jefferson playing that role and actually won one of those Finals. Crowder is a significant upgrade to Jefferson and will be a useful weapon they can unleash on the Warriors should the two teams meet for a fourth consecutive Finals.

2017/18 Schedule

1 Oct 17, 2017 vs. Boston Celtics    

2 Oct 20, 2017 @ Milwaukee Bucks    

3 Oct 21, 2017 vs. Orlando Magic    

4 Oct 24, 2017 vs. Chicago Bulls    

5 Oct 25, 2017 @ Brooklyn Nets    

6 Oct 28, 2017 @ New Orleans Pelicans    

7 Oct 29, 2017 vs. New York Knicks    

8 Nov 1, 2017 vs. Indiana Pacers    

9 Nov 3, 2017 @ Washington Wizards    

10 Nov 5, 2017 vs. Atlanta Hawks    

11 Nov 7, 2017 vs. Milwaukee Bucks    

12 Nov 9, 2017 @ Houston Rockets    

13 Nov 11, 2017 @ Dallas Mavericks    

14 Nov 13, 2017 @ New York Knicks    

15 Nov 15, 2017 @ Charlotte Hornets    

16 Nov 17, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Clippers    

17 Nov 20, 2017 @ Detroit Pistons    

18 Nov 22, 2017 vs. Brooklyn Nets    

19 Nov 24, 2017 vs. Charlotte Hornets    

20 Nov 27, 2017 @ Philadelphia 76ers    

21 Nov 28, 2017 vs. Miami Heat    

22 Nov 30, 2017 @ Atlanta Hawks    

23 Dec 2, 2017 vs. Memphis Grizzlies    

24 Dec 4, 2017 @ Chicago Bulls    

25 Dec 6, 2017 vs. Sacramento Kings    

26 Dec 8, 2017 @ Indiana Pacers    

27 Dec 9, 2017 vs. Philadelphia 76ers    

28 Dec 12, 2017 vs. Atlanta Hawks    

29 Dec 14, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Lakers    

30 Dec 16, 2017 vs. Utah Jazz    

31 Dec 17, 2017 @ Washington Wizards    

32 Dec 19, 2017 @ Milwaukee Bucks    

33 Dec 21, 2017 vs. Chicago Bulls    

34 Dec 25, 2017 @ Golden State Warriors    

35 Dec 27, 2017 @ Sacramento Kings    

36 Dec 30, 2017 @ Utah Jazz    

37 Jan 2, 2018 vs. Portland Trail Blazers    

38 Jan 3, 2018 @ Boston Celtics    

39 Jan 6, 2018 @ Orlando Magic    

40 Jan 8, 2018 @ Minnesota Timberwolves    

41 Jan 11, 2018 @ Toronto Raptors    

42 Jan 12, 2018 @ Indiana Pacers    

43 Jan 15, 2018 vs. Golden State Warriors    

44 Jan 18, 2018 vs. Orlando Magic    

45 Jan 20, 2018 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder    

46 Jan 23, 2018 @ San Antonio Spurs    

47 Jan 26, 2018 vs. Indiana Pacers    

48 Jan 28, 2018 vs. Detroit Pistons    

49 Jan 30, 2018 @ Detroit Pistons    

50 Jan 31, 2018 vs. Miami Heat    

51 Feb 3, 2018 vs. Houston Rockets    

52 Feb 6, 2018 @ Orlando Magic    

53 Feb 7, 2018 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves    

54 Feb 9, 2018 @ Atlanta Hawks    

55 Feb 11, 2018 @ Boston Celtics    

56 Feb 13, 2018 @ Oklahoma City Thunder    

57 Feb 22, 2018 vs. Washington Wizards    

58 Feb 23, 2018 @ Memphis Grizzlies    

59 Feb 25, 2018 vs. San Antonio Spurs    

60 Feb 27, 2018 vs. Brooklyn Nets    

61 Mar 1, 2018 vs. Philadelphia 76ers    

62 Mar 3, 2018 vs. Denver Nuggets    

63 Mar 5, 2018 vs. Detroit Pistons    

64 Mar 7, 2018 @ Denver Nuggets    

65 Mar 9, 2018 @ Los Angeles Clippers    

66 Mar 11, 2018 @ Los Angeles Lakers    

67 Mar 13, 2018 @ Phoenix Suns    

68 Mar 15, 2018 @ Portland Trail Blazers    

69 Mar 17, 2018 @ Chicago Bulls    

70 Mar 19, 2018 vs. Milwaukee Bucks    

71 Mar 21, 2018 vs. Toronto Raptors    

72 Mar 23, 2018 vs. Phoenix Suns    

73 Mar 25, 2018 @ Brooklyn Nets    

74 Mar 27, 2018 @ Miami Heat    

75 Mar 28, 2018 @ Charlotte Hornets    

76 Mar 30, 2018 vs. New Orleans Pelicans    

77 Apr 1, 2018 vs. Dallas Mavericks    

78 Apr 3, 2018 vs. Toronto Raptors    

79 Apr 5, 2018 vs. Washington Wizards    

80 Apr 6, 2018 @ Philadelphia 76ers    

81 Apr 9, 2018 @ New York Knicks    

82 Apr 11, 2018 vs. New York Knicks   

Prediction

Just like last season, nothing really matters with this Cavs team until the playoffs start. No matter how disinterested they look on defense or how dangerous the Celtics look, if LeBron James is healthy, Cleveland will still be the team to beat in the East.

That’s most likely what happens. James once again takes the foot off the pedal for the first few months of the regular season en route to a 50-53 win season, only to turn it on in time to lead the Cavs back to the Finals. However, the Cavs’ defense will ultimately be their downfall once again as James falls short of a fairytale ending to his second spell in Cleveland.

Do you think James and the Cavs claim the championship this season? Share your opinions in the comments below!

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Brad Taningco

Brad Taningco has been a RealSport NBA contributor since Decemeber 2016. But apart from basketball, he's also a fan of soccer, American football, baseball, and ice hockey.

Cleveland Cavaliers: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018

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