Boston Celtics: Complete Eastern Conference Preview

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Jun 16, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) on the court during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game six of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers

Injuries decimated the Cavaliers in the playoffs last year, but if they have some good fortune in that department this season the East should be theirs for the taking. And by taking I mean a complete rampage through the conference, no one within ten games of them come playoff time. The Cavs started 19-20 last year before ripping off 12 straight wins and going 34-9 overall to finish the season. That’s a win percentage that puts them at around 65 victories when played out over the course of an entire season.

They have their whole core roster returning, including Tristan Thompson, whose contract dispute ended this week when he signed a five-year deal. Mo Williams has come on board as well and should provide some solid scoring off the bench. LeBron James’ back has been acting up a bit and he could miss the season opener, but he’s been phenomenally durable throughout his career. Even if he takes a brief recovery break, as he did last season, Cleveland should be able to continue rolling right along with Thompson, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving.

Last season’s growing pains and the David Blatt in-or-out drama are behind them. This team has one goal in mind. They came up two wins short with a pair of All-Stars sidelined. I don’t see anyone in the East standing in their way of a return trip to the Finals. It would be LeBron’s 7th appearance. He’s 2-4 so far, definitely not Jerry West numbers, but still a disappointing mark for a player who’s so clearly the best of his generation and near the top all-time.

If Cleveland indeed makes it back they’ll of course have to topple whatever battle-hardened team emerges from the brutal Western Conference. It could be the Warriors again or perhaps the Spurs, who’ve shown James the door twice, but also been his Finals opponent for one of his championship seasons. Cleveland is certainly capable of winning it all. Even in defeat, LeBron silenced some critics last year with heroic performances against Golden State. It will take those same efforts and the support of a healthy lineup around him to deliver the Cavaliers their first NBA title.

Next: So Where Do The Celtics Fit In All This?