Photo Credit: USA Today Sports. (671)
Basketball, like many other sports, is a team-oriented game. General managers in the NBA scout players and sign free agents to put out a winning product. An NBA team?s head coach does their best to help develop players and guide them to reach their potential.
The phrase, ?No team can succeed with only one great player? has been proved to be a fact throughout the years past.
Just look back at the recent NBA champions, and even the recent NBA Finals runner-ups. You will notice that it takes 2 or 3 great players or 1 MVP player with a great supporting cast. That is how the NBA is run today. You either need super team consisting of future Hall of Famers (80?s Celtics/Lakers, 90?s Bulls, 08 Celtics, 09 Lakers, 12 Heat,etc) or you need an a ?superstar NBA player? with an All-Star supporting cast (93 Suns,11 Mavericks,etc).
But is there an exception? The 2006?2007 Cleveland Cavaliers have a good case.
When NBA fans look back at the 2006?2007 Cleveland Cavaliers, they will think about Lebron James and a mediocre, atrocious roster that overcame the odds and made it to the NBA Finals.
When the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Lebron James in 2003, he was seen as the hero to finally bring a championship to Cleveland. In the 2005?2006 NBA Season, Lebron led the Cavaliers to a 50?32 record, which would be 4th in the East. The Detroit Pistons would go on to eliminate the Cavs in the Conference Semifinals. NBA fans projected more of the same the following year.
Well that wasn?t the case.
Lebron led HIS Cavaliers to another 50?32 record, which would be 2nd best in the East. They defeated the Washington Wizards, New Jersey Nets, and the Detroit Pistons en-route to their 1st NBA Finals in franchise history. Their historic season would come to an end in a 4 game sweep to the San Antonio Spurs.
So was it really just the Lebron and everybody else show in all games?
The Cavaliers starters consisted of: Point Guard- Eric Snow, Shooting Guard- Larry Hughes, Small Forward- Lebron James, Power Forward- Drew Gooden, and Center- Zydrunas Ilgauskas
The reserves included: Damon Jones, Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, David Wesley, Shannon Brown, Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall, Dwayne Jones, Anderson Varejao, and Scot Pollard.
It is definitely not the type of lineup that would be capable of making an NBA Finals run considering the talent that was around during that time in the East and West. The East was not as strong as the West, which has been like that for a while now, but there were no doubt some strong, capable teams of making a deep playoff run. The East had Wade/Shaq of the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat, even though they were embarrassed in a four game sweep by the surging Bulls. Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson were running the New Jersey Nets. You also can not forget about the Detroit Pistons with Hamilton/Prince/Wallace/Billups.
Fun Fact: Lebron James was the 5th highest paid player on the 2006?2007 Cleveland Cavaliers team
Lebron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers with 27.3 PPG. The 2nd highest scorer was Larry Hughes with 14.9 PPG. Lebron James played in 78 games in the 2006?2007 season, and he was the leading scorer in 66/78 games (84%). The Cavaliers were 10?6 in games that Lebron was not the leading scorer. Lebron James played 3190 minutes during the season, which were 594 more than the next player, Larry Hughes. Lebron also scored 2132 points in the regular season, the next high scorer was Larry Hughes 1045 total points. In the playoffs, Lebron totaled 501 points in 20 games while Zydrunas Ilgauskas was the next leading scorer with 251 points.
Lebron James win shares was 13.7, 7.1 higher than the next players, Anderson Varejao and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
What made the Cavaliers a strong unit was not their offense, but their defense. The Cavaliers ranked 5th in team defense, holding opponents to 92.9 PPG. Their solid and efficient defense was their main point throughout the season and it helped them during the playoffs. In 20 playoff games against the Wizards/Nets/Pistons/Spurs, the Cavaliers gave up more than 95 points only 4 times.
If you love statistics, the Cavaliers ranked 7th in the Simple Rating System, which takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule.
It?s a different story when it comes to talking about the Cavs offense. It really was only Lebron when it came to scoring. He wasn?t surrounded with shooters that can spread the floor or big men that can dominate in the post, which explains why he had to take over games and be the leading scorer in 84% of the games that he played during the regular season. Lebron?s offensive win shares was 8.0, with the 2nd highest being Anderson Varejao with a 2.6 win share?
That?s why he had 20 shots take per game during the 2006?2007 season.
It was Lebron and a mediocre roster, but not when it came to their defense. The defensive win shares for Cavs players were equally shared, unlike with offensive win shares. Lebron led the Cavs with a 5.7 defensive win share followed by: Drew Gooden at 4.1, Varejo and Ilgauskas at 4.0, etc. Along with Eric Snow, Larry Hughes, and Donyell Marshall, the Cavs had good talented defensive players.
It also does not hurt to have Ilgauskas, a 7?3 center, in a conference with Shaquille O?Neal, Ben Wallace, Dwight Howard, and Chris Bosh.
Even though the Eastern Conference during the 2006?2007 season was not competitive as in years before, it was not a cakewalk for the Cavaliers to get to the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers swept the Wizards in the 1st round, but they managed to get by Jason Kidd (who averaged a triple-double the entire playoffs that season) and the New Jersey Nets.
The Cavaliers went on to defeat the Detroit Pistons in a thrilling series. In Game 5, Lebron had a statement game where he scored the Cavaliers last 25 points in a Game 5 win to take a 3?2 series lead. When the Cavaliers reached the NBA Finals, the inexperienced Cavs were swept by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.
The Cavaliers were just dominated in their first ever Finals series against the Spurs. The Spurs? solid defense held Lebron to just 22 points per game on 35% shooting and 20% from 3-point as he played 42.6 minutes per game. Lebron?s true shooting percentage in the NBA Finals was 42% compared to 55% in the regular season. While Lebron struggled in his first 4 Finals games, the Spurs veteran Big 3 of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili combined for 59 points per game, which was 68% of the Spurs points in the 2007 NBA Finals.
So how good were the 2006?2007 Cleveland Cavaliers? Lebron had his help on the defensive side of the ball, but offensively, it all depended on what type of game Lebron would have.