The Cleveland Cavaliers’ chances of repeating as Eastern Conference champions looked dismal leading up to the Feb 8 trade deadline. After all, the team was playing terrible defense and had lost 7 of their last 20 games. But a few trades and one blowout victory over the Boston Celtics later, and Cleveland looks like favorites once again.
The Cavs crushed the Celtics 121-99 on the road, sending a clear message that nobody should doubt them right now in their quest for a fourth-straight conference title.
Their new lineup, including George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson, combined for 49 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists in this blowout victory. For the first time in 2018, Cleveland looked youthful and energetic.
New Teammates are Exactly what LeBron Needed
LeBron doesn’t need to play with a bunch of superstars. Instead, he simply needs good teammates who have certain skills.
For example, George Hill may not be an All-Star like Isaiah Thomas. But he is a solid point guard who nails open three-pointers and has plenty of experience leading successful playoff teams. Just four years ago, he served as point guard for Indiana’s back-to-back conference championship appearances.
Hood was a very strong player at Duke, averaging 16 PPG and shooting 42% from three-point range. He’s carried this on into the pros, where, in 39 games with Utah, he was averaging 16 PPG and shooting 39% from three-point range.
The Lakers never truly committed to Clarkson being a part of their future. After all, he’s not an All-Star caliber point guard. But Clarkson is a good shooter with a nice all-around game who can play both guard positions.
The fact that Cleveland got all four of these players for Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose, Channing Frye, Jae Crowder, and cash is a major steal.
Cavs Have a Different Feeling
All reports indicate that Cleveland suddenly has a different feeling inside of their locker room. Something needed to change, given that GM Koby Altman described the previous scene as a “slow death march.” And Altman didn’t just make a few minor changes on the bench – he completely revamped the lineup.
“I thought our spirit was different,” said head coach Tyronn Lue. “I didn’t know what the outcome would be. But I knew we would compete and play hard. Move the basketball and move bodies. Those guys are flying around and it was good to see.”
Lue is also happy to see how excited the new faces are about competing for a conference title and possibly a championship.
“I know the guys that’s here, they’re very excited about this opportunity, and it’s my job to keep them excited about being here,” he explained.
“They’re joining something that obviously the last couple months hasn’t been what we expected, but over the course of the last four years, since I came back, has been really good basketball.
“So it’s my job as the leader of this team to make sure that I acclimate the new four guys to be around a culture that’s built on winning and practicing championship habits. That’s it.”
No Guarantees in the NBA
The battle for the Eastern Conference title is shaping up to be a tough one. Boston added new pieces that make them a serious threat. Toronto is a strong team that’s been to the playoffs several years in a row. And Milwaukee suddenly looks revamped after firing Jason Kidd.
As for Cleveland, this blowout win over Boston doesn’t guarantee anything. Hill could start playing older over the next few weeks. And Clarkson, Nance, and Hood may find it difficult to make clutch plays when a conference title and championship are on the line.
Nevertheless, this team feels different in a better way from the old roster – half of which was traded away. The previous players were part of a squad that was beaten by Boston at TD Garden just last month. But the Celtics game may have just reasserted Cleveland’s dominance over the East again.
2018 Cavs Futures at GTBets (Updated Feb 12)
Odds to Win Eastern Conference
Odds to Win NBA Championship
Golden State -230
Oklahoma City +2500
San Antonio +3000
Nothing has really changed in our 2018 futures following the Cavs’ win over the Celtics. That said, Cleveland may be offering even more value in the East odds after blowing Boston out.
If you can jump on these same odds before they (possibly) shift, then I recommend that you do so.
As for the championship odds, we need a larger sample size with this new lineup before declaring that the Cavs are a bigger title favorite than Houston or Golden State.