Eighty-two games and now, well … the real NBA season starts Saturday. But trying to find a consensus as to what teams will reach the NBA Finals -- and which one will win it -- is almost as difficult as filling out a perfect bracket in the NCAA Tournament.
OK, that’s a stretch, ’cause the odds of a perfect NBA bracket, if such existed, would be much more pedestrian than 9.2 quintillion. For the math challenged, which I am one, the march to 9.2 quintillion reads something like this: million, billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion.
Still, the NBA has no sure bets as to which teams will make its Finals, because for the first time in recent memory, the league boasts a handful of playoff teams that can make it there.
Make no mistake, the Cavaliers aren’t the best NBA team – I still think that team is Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs – they just have a smoother road to the Finals than any team that emerges from the Western Conference.
In the Eastern Conference, the Cavs won’t need to run a gauntlet that includes the Spurs, the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Portland Trail Blazers, the grit-and-grind Memphis Grizzlies, the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks.
Championships aren’t about what an opposing team can do; they are about what team with championship aspirations put all the pieces together. How is that team playing as the games get tighter and the competition stiffer?
No team is playing any better than the Cavaliers.
After a shaky start that fueled rumors of a coaching change, they righted things with midseason moves that brought depth to the bench (Kendrick Perkins, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith) and a big man (Timofey Mozgov) in the middle.
Yet all of those additional pieces complement a core that includes James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and James brings what any team with championship dreams needs: experience.
“There simply isn't another player who, on his own, can transform a bad team into an elite one,” sportswriter Mike Mayer wrote for fearthesword.com. “LeBron has been doing it his entire career, and he did it again this season.”
No team has ever won an NBA title with a collection of nobodies on the floor, and no team this season will do it. All the best teams this season have a player or two who can, on any given day, win a game singlehandedly or dominate a series.
The first of those “any given” days starts Saturday when the postseason begins, and anything can happen on the way to a title. So a NBA title in Cleveland is not assured.
What is assured, however, is that the postseason will be as riveting this season as it was last season. And like the past five postseasons, the odds are that LeBron will be there until it ends.
Whether LeBron can end the 2014-15 season with a championship ring is what makes the NBA playoffs worth watching as much as March Madness was.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)