This Hot Take ratchets up the heat quite a bit, as the idea of the Cleveland Cavaliers taking the No. 1 seed seems improbable in the context of the competition in the Eastern Conference. Last season the Cavs finished fourth, and two of the teams above them added stars this summer.
The Milwaukee Bucks were No. 1 a season ago and traded for Damian Lillard. The Boston Celtics were No. 2, with the league’s best point differential, and added Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. They are not only projected to finish 1-2 in the East, but they are the top two betting favorites to win the title heading into the season.
Cleveland and its fans should be undaunted by that fact. Yes, the Bucks and Celtics should be considered the top two teams for the playoffs, with rosters built for postseason success and experience going all the way (the Bucks won the title in 2021, and the Celtics made the NBA Finals in 2022). For the regular season? The Cavaliers have the inside track.
They had the second-best net rating in the league last season, the best indicator of team quality, and they returned all of their top eight players and added Max Strus, Georges Niang and Ty Jerome this summer. Their core is young and should improve, while no one in their rotation figures to suffer from age-related decline.
The Bucks have an aging core and are integrating a very new player, not to mention they now lack the depth to get through a regular season playing at an elite level. The Boston Celtics have younger stars but will be relying on older players around them, not to mention the injury issues Porzingis has dealt with his entire career. If they lose one of their bigs their lack of depth becomes apparent very quickly.
The Cavs, on the other hand, have plenty of depth at every position except point guard. They don’t have any players with significant health concerns in the rotation. They still need to prove themselves in the playoffs, and not having a Top-10 player in the league is a real issue on that stage, but in the regular season, the Cavaliers have an excellent chance to land the No. 1 seed.