Each year, the path to the NBA Finals is blocked by a LeBron James-led team, and this season’s Cleveland Cavaliers are no different.
The last team from the East to reach the Finals that didn’t have LeBron was the Boston Celtics back in 2010, and, barring something catastrophic, James will most likely reach his seventh-straight championship this summer with the Cavaliers.
Of course, some teams are expected to give the Cavs problems, but, over the last six seasons, there wasn’t one that was seen as the favorite when going up against James. This year, the Celtics and the Toronto Raptors (and even the Washington Wizards) all have a legitimate shot at giving Cleveland a scare come postseason.
If Boston were able to create a deal for Paul George or Jimmy Butler at the trade deadline, the predictions for who represents the East wouldn’t be so lopsided.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the prospect of either player going to Boston scared the Cavaliers a bit.
“The Cavs were on pins and needles yesterday about the Celtics (possibly) getting Paul George or Jimmy Butler,” said Windhorst on The Lowe Post podcast.
LeBron has beaten George and Butler in the postseason. He’s also beaten Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford in the postseason. What he hasn’t done is gone up against a monster with three of those four.
Granted, Boston wouldn’t be as powerful because they’d be parting with a few of their assets. Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart would’ve likely been shipped, but the Celtics would easily go shot-for-shot with Cleveland.
However, betting against LeBron in the playoffs is hard to do. In winning last year’s championship, James put together the greatest three-game stretch in Finals history. The year prior, the losses of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love ultimately led to the Golden State Warriors raising the trophy.
You also cannot overlook the importance of Irving, who took his game to otherworldly levels last June has he outplayed the unanimous MVP. Rounding out the Big Three is Love, who’s having his best statistical season since coming to the Cavaliers.
While a Celtics team comprised of Thomas, Butler or George and Horford is a handful, James has shown time and time again that picking him to lose against an Eastern Conference team in the postseason is a losing proposition.
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