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When it comes to potential challengers to the throne the Cleveland Cavaliers have occupied while sitting atop the Eastern Conference for the past three seasons, most observers name two teams as the biggest threats.
The Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics.
However, Nick Wright of FOX Sports sees another challenger as the biggest hurdle Cleveland might face in its quest to make it four consecutive trips to The Finals.
Appearing on the network’s First Things First show, Wright, a longtime booster of LeBron James and the Cavaliers, offered a surprise take.
“I would say the team that has the best chance to beat them is the team that right now would be their first round matchup, and that’s Milwaukee,” Wright said. “And it’s for two reasons. One is, if they were to meet in the first round, Kevin Love’s only going to have what, four to seven games with these new players getting reacclimated to the team?
“But also because of the guy we’re showing right there. Giannis (Antetokounmpo) has played three games against the Cavs this year. Now, the Bucks have only won one of those games. But Giannis has averaged 34, 10 and 6. And the way to beat LeBron is to somehow either have overwhelming talent around him or have a series where he’s not the best player on the court.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that, but you could see that for a week against Milwaukee. That’s how special that guy is. So if the Cavs are going to get beaten, I would think it would have to be in the first round. I think it would have to be against a team such as Milwaukee.”
Wright admitted his choice for the Cavaliers’ chief challenger will come off as a surprise to many.
“I think people probably expect me to say, nothing can derail the Cavs in the East, and I’ve been, I’ve said all year long when they were struggling, before Isaiah (Thomas) came back from injury, after Isaiah came back from injury, before the trades, after the trades, the Cavs are going to The Finals because they have LeBron James,” he said.
“And the Eastern Conference has been known as the LeBron James Invitational for the better part of the last decade. And I will continue to believe that. But if you were to tell me they are going to get got, someone is going to beat them, I would not say Toronto, who’s the second best odds. I would not say Boston, who is in a bit of a freefall after that 22-4 start.”
Wright believes the change that saw the Bucks fire Jason Kidd and replace him with former Cavaliers assistant Joe Prunty has proved beneficial to the young Bucks, who stand at 32-26, sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. Milwaukee has won seven of its last 10 games.
“They don’t they don’t shoot the ball well enough, but they’re so long and ever since Jason Kidd got fired, they’ve been better defensively, that I think they could stymie to a degree the Cavs’ shooting,” he said.
“I mean I think it was huge, I think it was huge. I think that Jason Kidd from a strategic standpoint, was one of the worst coaches in the NBA,” he continued. “And I think he was holding that team back. And we’re also now just seeing Milwaukee with Jabari Parker back for the first time.
“Eric Bledsoe’s getting more indoctrinated into the lineup. Those guys had never played together. And so for those reasons, I think, if you were to tell me this, let me put it like this. And I’m curious who you think the answer is. Cleveland doesn’t come out of the East, who does? My answer would be Milwaukee.”