Barring natural disaster, what keeps the Cleveland Cavaliers from repeating in 2017?

Happy Tuesday everyone and welcome back to the Yardbarker roundtable where we have our resident experts discuss the serious (and not so serious) sides of sports. Over the past week we’ve been asking everyone their opinions on high five metricsoverrated teamscult hero players who are destined to be the next Twitter meme and the retired players we will miss this most this season. But tonight? Tonight is for the champions.

As we watch the banner rise over the the shining Larry O’Brien trophy in Cleveland, we had to ask our panel:

Barring natural disaster, what keeps LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers from repeating in 2017? Or is it not as easy for Cavs as everyone thinks it will be?

Demetrius Bell: The Cavs went through a mid-season coaching change and were “struggling” to the point where there were rumors that LeBron was going too leave once the season ended due to internal frustrations (remember #HeGone?). Crisis in Cleveland!

So naturally, the Cavs ended up sauntering to the #1 seed in the East, had a relative cakewalk on their way to the Finals, and then finally turned it up and forced Golden State to cough up a 3-1 lead in the Finals. Most of that team is coming back for this season, and nobody else in the East has improved substantially enough to mount a serious threat. I’m already looking forward to Cavs/Warriors Round 3 in the summer.

Jason Clinkscales: I’m never really inclined to think it’s easy for any team to repeat as champions, but the Cavs do have an interesting road back to the Finals. It’s not because of perceived weakness about the East (like last year, it’s better than we’re accustomed to, despite not having multiple title contenders). And it’s not because the West is exactly super stacked itself as fewer teams are contenders these days. It’s about how coach Tyronn Lue can manage the health and minutes of his best players throughout the season while still winning at least 55 games. With Matthew Delladedova in Milwaukee, can Lue truly rely on a rookie in Kay Felder or journeyman Toney Douglas if Kyrie Irving gets hurt again? When James takes his customary two week break, how do the Cavs fill those shoes on both sides of the court to keep things humming along?

They can and should repeat, though this was not exactly the greatest collection of players to win a title. Yet, we’re going to learn a lot about the rest of the roster as they push for a second championship.

Alex Wong: The Cavs might even survive a natural disaster at this point. Teams like Toronto and Boston might entertain the idea that they can compete against Cleveland in the East. The Raptors won two games against the Cavs in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals (but feel free to look up the overall point differential in that series). The Celtics are on the rise especially with the acquisition of Al Horford.

But look at what happened with the Atlanta Hawks the last two seasons. Two years ago, the Hawks took the number one seed in the East with 60 wins, appeared to be the next Spurs East dynasty, and then were promptly swept by LeBron and the Cavs in the Conference Finals. Matched up again last season in the second round, the Cavs once again won in four games.

LeBron has owned the East for six years running now. Coming off his most remarkable individual feat in the Finals, coming back from 3-1 against the Warriors, there’s zero reason to think anything changes this season.

Sam Greszes: This question gets asked every year in every sport. Repeating is really, REALLY hard. That’s why the three-peat was such a big deal when it happened. When a team wins an NBA championship, coaches look at that team, break down the film, and start practicing specifically to beat the offensive and defensive schemes that won the team that championship. It’s happened with the Heat, it’s happened with the Spurs, it’s happened with the Lakers back when they, you know, won games… this is not a new phenomenon. Having said that, the Cavs will definitely benefit from the strategic decision the Atlanta Hawks made to get rid of all of their good players, so that’s a silver lining in the East.

Shiloh Carder: Really, this season feels like a lead up to Cavs-Warriors III.  That’s what we want and those are the best teams in their conferences.  Golden State is the one team that can topple them in the playoffs – I mean they did have them down 3-1 before that epic collapse. Other than that, a post-title lull is to be expected from a team that has no real threats in the Eastern Conference.

David Matthews: The path out of the Eastern Conference should be a little more difficult than it was a year ago. I think ultimately that Cleveland gets there, but that the Pacers and Raptors make it very difficult in the second round and the conference semis. The Finals should be yet another Cavs-Warriors skirmish where LeBron is glued to Durant for seven games and Kyrie and Steph cross each other over into oblivion. Unless Russell Westbrook takes something personally. Is it June yet?

Phillip Barnett: If the question were about the Cavaliers getting back to the NBA Finals, then the answer would be absolutely nothing. They’ll tear through the Eastern Conference much like they have in the previous two years, but if they’re going to repeat, they’ll have to get through the Warriors, who were a few plays away from repeating this past summer themselves. This year, they’re going to be much better with Kevin Durant adding not only another great scoring option, but another plus defender on the perimeter to give either LeBron James or Kyrie Irving issues. It’s hard to imagine these Cavaliers beating these Warriors if both teams are healthy. With Durant on the team, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green only become better basketball players – and they were nearly good enough to be James and company last year.

Jamie Neal: I don’t think the Cavs go back to back. There is reason to think there will be a step back on their end after finally bringing a title back to Cleveland and I think Golden State will push incredibly hard to get back to the Finals a third year in a row. Curry, Durant, Klay and Draymond will do everything possible to bring another title to the fans in the Bay Area.   Kerr has said he will be resting players throughout the season and the Dubs will have learned from last years catastrophic loss in the Finals.  It’s going to sound like I’m being a homer, but this Warriors team is insane and the knowledge that this team has from winning two years ago and losing last year is invaluable.

The Cavs are deep and shouldn’t be overlooked, but the Warriors are deep as well. Had Harrison Barnes not forgotten how to play and had the Kerr rested the squad instead of pushing for the all-time wins record, this may be a different conversation, but the Warriors will be pushing for another championship and Vegas has the Warriors as the favorites.
Kerith Gabriel: Perennially, the Eastern Conference has been a joke and that’s probably not going to change this year. But the probably the most obvious reason is that even if they make it to the NBA Finals, which I do believe they have a chance to do, there are too many contenders in the West (think new NBA “Dream Team” in Golden State) that are capable of dethroning King James and the Cavs. 

Yardbarker: NBA

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