Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blog For This Basketball Assessment

With the return of former Miami Heat forward LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Vegas have installed the Cavs as the new favourites to win the 2014-15 NBA title. Hold on a moment though – the return of the Cavs’ all-time leading scorer and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player is certainly cause for optimism, but should they really be favourites?

As Nate Silver has pointed out reasonable estimates of LeBron’s value put him as being worth 20 wins per regular season. The Cavs won 33 games in 2013-14 (see LHS of the chart below), and Silver estimates the addition of LeBron would likely take them up to around 52 wins. This will probably make Kyrie Irving and the rest of C-Town somewhat happier (see middle of chart). But it is unlikely to take them to a level where they can match it with top teams such as the mighty San Antonio Spurs (see RHS of chart).

The other notable new addition to the Cavs, No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins, might be a handy asset to have, but rookies rarely add a lot of value. Even Rookie of the Year winners James and Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant threw up a lot of bricks in their first seasons and their teams had mediocre records.

The Vegas odds may reflect that people now think that there is a good chance that the Cavs will land Minnesota’s rebounding machine Kevin Love. Depending on what the Cavs gave up for him Love could add over another 15 wins to the team, and take their win column up into the high 60s. Of course the Cavs have been in that realm before and not come home with the trophy, but they would probably deserve favouritism at least.
Regardless, the Cavs are probably going to be a lot better than James’ old team the Miami Heat. Essentially the Cavs and Heat would be expected to swap win-loss records, with James’ production of 20 wins being transferred from Florida to Ohio. Even with their recent signings and a terrible Eastern Conference the Heat may struggle to make the playoffs.

Silver argued, as did these ESPN scribes, that James would have had a much better shot at a title if he had managed to get to the Los Angeles Clippers, where he could have teamed up with stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. As it is the Cavs may still find it tough to get past the Indiana Pacers (assuming they keep free agent Lance Stephenson) and the Chicago Bulls if the injured Derrick Rose can become productive again.
Remember when Chris Judd left the West Coast Eagles and there was that blog post about the song he might write about moving back to Melbourne? No? Well, I still like to think that as LeBron James drives his Ferrari on the northbound out of Miami that he might be singing the lyrics below to the tune of ‘Miami’ by Foals. Yes, I know that even if LeBron was inclined to change lyrics to Miami-themed songs – which he wouldn’t I expect – that he would be more likely to choose the track of the same name by Will Smith. Like millions of other sports fans, I am projecting on to an athlete something that is happening in my imagination only.
I promised you rings, not two, three, or four
Not five, six, or seven, or even more
But why did the fans boo when I stepped on the floor?
Would you be there, cheering, stay in your seat?
(In Miami)
How could I say no to someone like Pat Riley?
(In Miami)
After two titles though things aren’t the same
I’m playing with the remains of Dwyane Wade
No wonder the Spurs just brushed us away
Now what’s the best place to go chase ring number three?
(Not Miami)
It’s the place where my hometown entourage will be
(Not Miami)
(Miami bad, Miami bad, Miami bad, Miami bad)
(Miami bad, Miami bad, Miami bad, Miami bad)

Before we vamos:

·         The James/Wade/Bosh era in Miami will be mainly remembered by me for two things: the Welcome Party, and Game 6 of the 2012-13 Finals.
·         But here are some other moments to remember from basketball’s most famous, divisive, Drake-loving team of the past decade.
·         What if every other NBA player pulled a LeBron and went back to their hometown?
·         And one more link: here are some reasons why LBJ might have chosen Cleveland instead

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