LeBron James joining the Cleveland Cavaliers is clearly the NBA story of the year, and for the downtrodden fans of Cleveland, the brightest reason for hope in years. While LeBron was on hiatus in Miami, Cleveland drafted All-Star Kyrie Irving, rising star Dion Waiters, and packaged the last two number one picks (Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins) to Minnesota for sharpshooter and rebounder Kevin Love. On paper (and in Silver’s computer) this looks good enough for Silver to assign a 26.1% chance of winning the NBA title to the Cavs. Time to apply a little logic to this. Silver clearly feels that the Cavs are the best operation in the perennially weaker Eastern Conference, and he may be right. But the once-easy road through the Eastern Playoffs is filled with land mines. How about a first round date with rugged Charlotte? Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker showed last year that they have the chops to play serious games in the spring. Or even a 5-game set with Indiana? Not a cake-walk. The second round could bring a dance with old friends D-Wade and Chris Bosh. Still a formidable outfit with Luol Deng in the mix. Then the inevitable run-in with Chicago… TNT is drooling.
Internally, Silver ignores the two most important factors (after pure talent) when considering championship ability: defense and coaching. The Heat, with the Big 3, were a really good defensive team, and LeBron is the gold standard among defensive players. But while LBJ can guard anybody, he can’t guard everybody. Kevin Love, Dion Waiters, even Kyrie Irving, have defensive shortcomings. Who’s going to guard Al Jefferson, Joakim Noah, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, etc? Going to take a lot of work to make this a championship caliber defense. And who is going to craft that? Dave Blatt is a good coach, in Israel. He has never led an NBA team, and now he’s up against Tom Thibideau, Erik Spolstra, Gregg Popovich, and Doc Rivers? Honestly, it takes 2-4 years for a head coach to figure it out, so there will be a lot of pressure on Blatt and his staff to put this thing together pretty quick. Could the Cavs win it all? Sure. 26% chance? No way, Nate.
–Evan Pierce is an analyst at Pivit, the gaming app that uses advanced algorithms to predict outcomes and percentages in real-time.