After years of rumors, the NBA has finally decided to implement an in-season tournament. Full disclosure: I am still trying to figure out the point of it all. There’s no real benefit for the players beside a nice cash prize for the teams that make it to the knockout rounds and the winning team, of course. On the flip side, it does make the regular season a bit more competitive and allows for sports fans to have something to watch on Tuesdays and Fridays when the NFL isn’t on.
However, if Adam Silver really wanted to spice things up, he would have added playoff implications to this World Cup-esque tournament. Unfortunately, I am not the commissioner of the NBA, so this will have to do.
With all that said, the Cleveland Cavaliers now have a chance to put the NBA world on notice. They were placed in Eastern Conference Group A, which features the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, and Detroit Pistons. After a stellar offseason that saw them shore up their shooting weaknesses and depth issues, the Cavs have the best roster on paper in the group. As I have said before, the Cavs have no excuses this year and winning their in-season tournament group would be a good start; you can view their Group A schedule here, via the team.
Here are three reasons why the Cavs will top Group A.
We’ll begin with the first reason Cleveland will emerge victorious in their group.
Reason No. 1: The uncertainty involving the 76ers
At this point, it’s unclear who produces more drama: the Kardashians or James Harden. It’s really close. After yet another disappointing postseason run, Harden requested a trade out of Philadelphia after Daryl Morey refused to give him the raise he promised. Now, Harden and the Sixers are headed for the biggest standoff since Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, with no end in sight. Another day, another drama filled offseason for the Sixers. Now, this bodes well for the Cavs because they are at the top of the group along with the Sixers in terms of talent.
As much of a drama queen as Harden is, his loss would be very significant for the Sixers as they have no one to replace his offensive production. While they do have Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid still, their offensive firepower takes a huge blow without Harden. Furthermore, drama surrounding a player and the front office can really take a toll on a team and the Sixers know this feeling all too well as they had a similar standoff with Ben Simmons in 2022. In addition to that, the Cavs and Sixers played each other very closely this past season and that was with Harden.
Now that the Cavaliers have a deeper team, guys like Darius Garland and Evan Mobley poised to take the next step in their development, and incumbent superstar Donovan Mitchell, they are now all of a sudden the best team in the group. They have the most complete roster, and the other teams in the group are a tier below them. If the Sixers cannot kiss and make up with Harden, the Cavs become the favorites to win the group and they should win it as well.