For the last four seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been disappointing and difficult to watch. LeBron James leaving home devastated the city, but left behind the framework for the future. Well folks, the future is now. After a four year playoff drought and three number one draft picks, the Cavs are in prime position to contend for the championship.

As any basketball fan knows, the Eastern Conference isn’t exactly the most competitive. The East contained eight teams with winning percentages under .500, including the Atlanta Hawks (38-44) who secured the eighth seed in the playoffs. The fiercer Western Conference produced six teams with losing records, as opposed to the East, including the Phoenix Suns (48-34) who didn’t qualify for the postseason.

Needless to say, if a team, such as the Cavs created a splash via free agency, it wouldn’t be strenuous to envision them shooting to the top of the standings. Unless you’re a hermit crab, you know Cleveland accomplished this feat. Dan Gilbert did the impossible, making amends with LeBron James and bringing him home.

As a result, the Cavs evolved from a 33 win team into a 58 win, playoff powerhouse. Call it the LeBron James effect since the man can easily turn this squad into championship contenders. Cleveland didn’t halt once its king was crowned, we gathered up all the king’s men. James’ favorite sharp shooters, Mike Miller and James Jones, joined the gang. Nothing is official yet, but if everything goes as planned, Kevin Love is on-board too.

Correspondingly, these transactions thrust the Cleveland Cavaliers back into the spotlight. Once again, we are relevant. We’re the top dogs, even though some critics refuse to label us favorites. The Cavs definitely will have kinks to smooth out with all the new members of this organization, but competing in a weak conference shouldn’t be laborious. There are only a few Eastern teams that pose a serious threat, the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers, and the Brooklyn Nets.

Don’t exclude the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards, two young, rising franchises. Although this may be true, Toronto and Washington must still prove they’re serious contenders. Both teams held their own in the playoffs, but must showcase consistency and return to the postseason.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn tried to buy a championship with all the money they dished out to Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and others. The Nets even pulled off blockbuster trades to acquire Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. Unfortunately, they haven’t finished better than second in their division. Brooklyn by no means is a pushover despite lacking leadership. In my opinion, neither Williams nor Johnson can shoulder a team to win a ring.

Comparatively, the Bulls and Pacers are in similar boats. Both franchises possess quality leaders, but health concerns linger in everyone’s minds.

In light of Paul George breaking his leg, Indiana’s title dreams took a tremendous blow. The Pacers built a solid roster composed of role players like David West, George Hill, and Roy Hibbert, but after review, no one jumps off the page as a leader. They remain a playoff team, but must play as one, without Paul George, in order to achieve their goal.

In similar fashion, Chicago’s success is dependent on the health of one man, Derrick Rose. The Bulls present a substantial threat with a franchise that reached the postseason while enduring the loss of their superstar. In addition to retaining Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Jimmy Butler, they managed to pry Pau Gasol away from the Los Angeles Lakers. Throw a healthy, keyword healthy, D-Rose in the mix boosts Chicago to the top of the standings in the East.

However, the Cleveland Cavaliers intend to fight for that number one spot. Chemistry will form throughout the season, despite a roster makeover. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James will mesh together; we all witnessed that during the 2014 All-Star game. Not to mention, upgrading our perimeter shooting should increase the 35.6% three point shooting percentage Cleveland recorded last year. Anyways, Cavalier fans have high expectations, realistic or not, and they might finally experience that championship parade.

– Max Gold

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