I'm on the Cleveland bandwagon. They are the favorites to win it all for a reason. The superstar trio of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving is an offensive trifecta, and the team's defensive shortcomings are probably not as bad as we are led to believe - especially since we know defensive reinforcements can be brought in as an NBA season wears on.
Chances are the Cavaliers will end up with the best record in the league. They have the best player, two other All-Stars, and play in a relatively weak conference. Nonetheless, many analysts are only lukewarm about Cleveland's chances of winning it all. This strikes me as over-reactive thinking, and losing sight of the big picture.
It's almost a distant memory, but it used to be exceedingly difficult for a team to snag a superstar from another team during the summer months - let alone two. The Celtics shocked us in the 2007 off-season by somehow trading for both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. That was followed by Miami's coup in 2010, when they managed to sign both Chris Bosh and James in free agency. Then, in the summer of 2012, the Lakers traded for both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The overnight "super team" concept no longer stunned us; actually we have become strangely accustomed to it.
But we shouldn't be. "Super teams" are the hardest teams to build, and whenever they come together we should be impressed. What Cleveland has done this summer, and what the aforementioned teams did the previous years, is astounding in historical context. While "super teams" do not always work on the court as well as they do on paper, they still usually succeed to an incredible extent. That's because when a team has three legitimate stars, everything else starts taking care of itself. And that is exactly what the Cavs currently have working for them.
So why do some pundits expect Cleveland to have difficulties this year? The answer probably is because the last two constructed "super teams" failed, in one way or the other, to live up to our lofty mental expectations. So the "super team" bar, strangely enough, is currently set too low.
Our perception tends to be clouded by the disaster that was the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. But the fact of the matter is there were legitimate injury and chemistry concerns for that squad before the season even began, and things only worsened as the year went on. The 2012-13 Lakers were in poor health the whole season, and their chemistry was terrible. There is no reason to expect these Cavs to face similarly profound problems.
The 2010-11 Miami Heat also had some trouble coming out of the gate - we all remember how poorly they started, and then how they (LeBron, specifically) flamed out in the Finals. However, Miami overall was very good that year, although their chemistry was lacking. The Heat's "Big 3" never fully meshed in 2011 - and maybe never completely meshed any season they were together - but they still made four straight Finals. The reason for that is simply star power, which trumps all.
I don't expect this newly constructed Cavs team to be very good - I expect them to be great. All the key pieces are there, and I feel like David Blatt is the best head coach James has ever had. Love and Irving are both young, and will likely improve in subtle ways. This should be a wonderful team to watch, and they might come closer to attaining our ideal aspirations of what a contemporary "Big 3" should look like more successfully than the Heat ever did.