Tag: Miami Heat

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day

LeBron James and his difficult-to-assess super teams


LeBron James’ infamous “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” decry is now used to mock LeBron’s arrogance.

In 2010, it was hardly viewed a joke.

It was seen as a warning.

When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces in South Beach, some people thought the trio had ruined the NBA. The Heat would win every championship without resistance, critics complained. The league was no longer fair, turned on its head by a kid from Akron who didn’t want to work for a title that other all-time greats rightfully earned.

You can at least see why the critics worried. Just a few years prior, the Celtics went 24-48, traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce and went 66-16 and won the championship. It seemed assembling a big three of stars could immediately vault a team to a title, and the Heat’s big three resembled Boston’s. It was just younger and better.

But it wasn’t easy for Miami, and anyone who thought it would be proved foolish. The Heat started 9-8 and lost in the NBA Finals that first year.

With LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving joining forces in Cleveland this year, expectations have been tempered. Sure, LeBron doesn’t have much credibility when he says the Bulls are better than the Cavaliers right now. But in his Sports Illustrated letter, he spoke about a lengthy process ahead, and that has been taken seriously.

In 2010, predictions for Miami’s win total typically landed in the high 60s, with guesses into the 70s not uncommon. This year, typical predictions for Cleveland’s win total land in the high 50s or low 60s.

Why is there such a difference? Are Love and Irving not as good as Wade and Bosh were? Perhaps, but I think another reason supersedes that.

The narrative has changed.

In 2010, it was all about LeBron creating a super team with Wade and Bosh. It was about their arrogance, their talent, their refusal to wait their turn.

This is different. It’s about LeBron going home.

But when assessing a team’s actual on-court production, the narrative matters very little. In either case, LeBron is playing with two star teammates and a solid supporting cast. How people perceive the situations doesn’t affect the reality of a team’s chances once the ball is tossed up.

Thankfully, there are ways to cut through the narratives.

One of the most pessimistic views on the Heat in 2010 came from Kevin Pelton’s SCHOENE system, a statistical projection that pegged the Heat for 58 wins. Their actual total? 58 wins.

This year, SCHOENE projects the Cavaliers will win 68 games. That would rank as tied for the fourth-best mark of all-time, behind only the 1995-97 Bulls(72-10), 1996-97 Bulls (69-13) and 1971-72 Lakers (69-13).

Of course, SCHOENE is far from infallible. But in this case – when stars from different teams align – it has worked pretty well, and I think there’s a reason eye tests got it wrong on the 2010 Heat. There just isn’t much precedent for assessing this situation.

If before each season we ranked teams based on the combined win shares of their three players who posted the most the previous year, nearly all the annual league leaders would include three players returning to the same team. A handful would have have one newcomer. And only two – LeBron’s 2010-11 Heat and 2014-15 Cavaliers – would have two newcomers. (None would feature three newcomers.)

Here are those teams, distinguishing between:

  • Returning players (gold)
  • Newcomers on a team with only one in the top three (navy)
  • Newcomers on a team with two in the top three (wine)


If you’re wondering why the 2008 Celtics don’t appear, Pierce and Allen were coming off down seasons. That’s a key reason Boston didn’t set off a preseason panic akin to Miami in 2010.

But we saw how easy the Garnett-Pierce-Allen Celtics made it look, and then we overcorrected for the LeBron-Wade-Bosh Heat. Now, we’re overcorrecting again in the opposite direction for the Cavaliers.

There are just so few examples of teams suddenly adding two stars to form such an elite big three. Really, there are only two, and both involve LeBron coming on board.

You could argue the first didn’t immediately work, with Miami falling short of its championship expectation. But I’d say it worked exactly as well as the numbers suggested, with the Heat winning their predicted 58 games.

If the Cavaliers meet expectations – realistic expectations, not the watered-down projections overly influenced by the Heat’s failed title bid in 2011 – it will be a special season in Cleveland.

LeBron James: “(The Bulls) are a team that’s much better than us right now just off chemistry”

Dallas Mavericks v Cleveland Cavaliers

Don’t we all just want to fast forward to the Bulls vs. Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals?

That showdown will be epic. The long NBA season has a way of surprising us, but with just more than a week until it tips-off officially it seems clear that Cleveland and Chicago are the cream of the crop in the East. Those two teams face off for the first time Monday, albeit in a meaningless preseason game (but at least one where both coaches have said they plan to run more of their regular rotations out there).

Who will win that matchup come May? Way too early to say.

But right now the Chicago Bulls are the better team. That’s not me saying it, that’s LeBron James saying the Bulls are better today, as reported by Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

“We haven’t done anything right now. They’re a team that’s much better than us right now just off chemistry. They’ve been together for a while. The system has been there for a while. So, we have a long way to go.”

He’s right.

The Bulls have their identity, honed through years of Tom Thibodeau yelling at them. They play tough defense, they are physical, and they have the athletes who can score in the halfcourt. This season with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah they may have the best passing front line in the league, they have Derrick Rose and his slashing game (if he stays healthy). The Bulls know who they are and what they want to be.

The Cavaliers are figuring all that out.

Cleveland has a new coach with a new system, plus new players in LeBron and Kevin Love who are going to get a lot of touches and bend the offense their way. Much like when LeBron joined Miami with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade — where it took them really a season and a half to find their groove — it’s going to take the Cavaliers time to find out what really works.

The question is will Cleveland have figured it out enough by May to beat the Bulls? And if so, beyond that can they beat the best of the West in seven games? They’ve got time to be better than Chicago, but also a lot of work to do to reach that goal.

LeBron James reveals (?) his recruiting pitch

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day

LeBron James, in his first stint with the Cavaliers, tried and failed to recruit Michael Redd, Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh to Cleveland.

His second term with the Cavaliers has gone much better on that front. LeBron has successfully lured Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones.

LeBron is a proven NBA champion, one of the best players of all time and an unselfish teammate. Of course, players want to join him, but everyone likes to be wooed a little bit.

How has LeBron convinced those players to join up?

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

As soon as James committed to return, he immediately recruited Love, Miller, Jones, Marion and Allen, who has yet to decide whether he’s going to play this season. James’ sales pitch: “It was nothing really,” he said. “Either you want to play here or you don’t.”

No wonder LeBron didn’t get any stars to join him in Cleveland the first time. That’s a terrible sales pitch.

Hopefully, that’s just LeBron being evasive with the media. He might want to keep his sales pitch private.

Otherwise, landing Love, Marion, Miller and Jones was a total fluke and the Cavaliers will run into problems down the road.