Restoring Order In The East? LeBron And The Cavaliers Are Ready To Make A Run

By Josh Naso / @silverfox8008 

The top of the Eastern Conference standings have looked a little strange so far this season. With the preseason favorite to win the East struggling through the early part of the season, a few teams that aren’t particularly used to leading the way have made claims to be the number one contender to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Leading the way are the white-hot Atlanta Hawks. For a long time, the Hawks have been a middling team, consistently floating around the 4, 5 or 6 spot in the East. Occasionally they make a little bit of noise in the playoffs before losing to a superior team, but really it feels as though they are just kind of “there,” not really doing anything, not on anyone’s radar, not a true threat.

This season, however, they have announced their presence in a big way. They currently sit atop the East with a 38-8 record, good for the second best record in the entire league, and have won 17 straight games. They play a refreshingly unselfish brand of basketball, a breath of fresh air in a league that has become so dependent on superstars and isolation plays. And the Hawks are solid defensively, leading the league in points per game against at 96.3. Come postseason time, no one will take this Hawks team lightly.

Right behind the Hawks in the Southeast Division is another historically “blah” team, the Washington Wizards. They’ve had some playoff appearances, Michael Jordan briefly played for them and Gilbert Arenas provided some great entertainment. But, much like the Hawks, they’ve never been a true threat come crunch time. From 2008-2013, they also had some terrible seasons. Of course, those doldrums allowed them to acquire the assets they have now, assets that are moving the team toward contender status.

Led by John Wall, with help from Bradley Beal, Nene and veteran leadership from Paul Pierce, the Wizards are out to a 31-16 start and look poised to build off of last season’s trip to the conference semifinals. Personally, I think they are still a year away from being one of the league’s truly elite teams, but no one is looking forward to playing them in the playoffs.

Finally, there’s Toronto. The Raptors lead the Atlantic Division and sit behind only Atlanta in the Eastern Conference standings. They have one of the best point guards in the NBA, who gets plenty of support from DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors have been quietly building a legit squad north of the border, and it’s only a matter of time until they truly announce their presence on the scene.


With all that being said, a return to normalcy may be coming in the East. LeBron James returned from eight games off to rest a sore knee, and although he had to sit out last night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers with a wrist issue, he has looked great. After losing LeBron’s first game back, the Cavs had run off seven straight victories, including wins against the Clippers, Bulls and Thunder. They were able to defeat the Blazers last night despite LeBron’s absence, thanks to Kyrie Irving’s 55-point explosion. After falling under .500 at 19-20, the Cavs are now 27-20 and back to fifth in the East.

In the seven games since his return before his absence last night, LeBron is averaging 30 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. He once again looks like the LeBron we have all come to know and love (or hate.) The Cavs seem to be finding their stride and gaining some chemistry. It appears as though they are becoming the team that everyone expected them to be after LeBron’s homecoming and the addition of Kevin Love.

As we head into the second half of the season, it will be fun to see if the Cavs can continue their ascension and how high they can rise in the East standings. It will also be fun to watch the newcomers currently at the top try to continue to establish themselves and to see how they respond to the LeBron train that is heading their way. Regardless of how it shakes out, the top of the Eastern Conference needs to be put on notice: LeBron and the Cavs are coming.

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