2018-19 Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love and the Cavaliers are looking to rebuild a bit after four straight appearances in the Finals.

Coach: Tyronn Lue (entering his fourth season, 128-77, .624).

Last Season: 50-32, lost in NBA Finals to Golden State, 4-0.

Key Returnees: Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Kyle Korver, George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic.

Key Additions: Collin Sexton (rookie, Alabama), David Nwaba (Chicago), Sam Dekker (LA Clippers), Channing Frye (LA Lakers), Billy Preston (rookie, Kansas).

Key Losses: LeBron James (LA Lakers), Jeff Green (Washington), Jose Calderon (Detroit).

Outlook: The Cavaliers are one of the most difficult teams in the league on which to get a read. There are two lines of thinking in regards to the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions. The first, with LeBron James having jumped ship for a second time, taking his talents to Hollywood to join the Lakers, has Cleveland sinking to the muck and yuck of the East as it did in the 2010-11 season after James defected the first time to head to South Beach to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The second, even though James is no longer around to dominate the news cycle 24-7, there is enough back and enough new blood added to have the Cavaliers in contention for a bottom-rung playoff spot. The truth? Both sets of circumstances are reasonable, which means this — no one really knows how Cleveland will fare this season, though Vegas sharps have it pegged for somewhere in the 30-win neighborhood. Kevin Love’s wallet got a lot fatter after signing a four-year, $120 million extension last summer. A question on the minds, if not tongues, on many is how many games will the five-time All-Star play this season after being plagued by injuries the past two seasons, in which he played only 59 and 60 games, respectively? He, along with J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye, are the only players left from the Cavaliers’ team that made history by rallying from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to take down the mighty Golden State Warriors and win the 2016 NBA championship. They are joined by returnees George Hill, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic. The new blood comes in the former of rookie point guard Collin Sexton, whom Cleveland selected with the eighth overall pick in the draft out of Alabama, and swingman David Nwaba and forward Sam Dekker. It will be interesting to see what coach Tyronn Lue does without James around. Will he be able to discern what each guy on the roster brings to the table and form an effective rotation? Vowing to play at a fast pace without an established ball-dominant superstar on the roster, will veterans such as Love, Smith, Thompson, Hill and Korver be able to play at what at times can resemble a helter-skelter pace? In truth, there are more questions than certainties with this collective, though that is always the case when a transcendent talent such as James decides to take his basketball and play elsewhere. The Cavs won’t be playing in June for the first time in a half-decade, but whether or not they can defy what most across the NBA landscape — not to mention, the oddsmakers — are saying about them and contend for a playoff spot will be, if nothing else, interesting to… witness (ouch).