Why the Cleveland Cavaliers stand no chance against (or without) LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers:
When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time in 2010, Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert wrote his infamous letter to all Cleveland fans in Comic Sans, stating that they would win a championship before LeBron.
Gilbert’s letter is one of the funniest things ever written in NBA history because Cleveland’s performance without LeBron has been comical over the past decade.
Cleveland has won about 30% of their games this past decade. If we go back even further, they have not made the playoffs since 1998 without LeBron on the team. By contrast, only in LeBron’s rookie year did Cleveland miss the playoffs when he was on the team.
Great players make great organizations, not the other way around. If this season were to end today, Cleveland would be in the playoffs. Time will tell if they can keep this up and break their longstanding playoff drought.
But for this game, who matches up with Cleveland’s former king, LeBron James?
Cleveland’s rookie wing Isaac Okoro will likely guard LeBron most of the time. Okoro ranks sixth in the entire NBA in average minutes played per game at 36.8. His defensive tenacity has spearheaded a major turnaround in Cleveland’s defense compared to last season, going from 29th to 4th in defensive rating.
Okoro’s tenacity was on full display against former Cleveland star Kyrie Irving, now on the Brooklyn Nets. Cleveland beat Brooklyn twice in a row mainly because they wanted it more.
True, Okoro’s stats are not impressive; his impact on the game does not always show up in the stat sheet. But against LeBron, Okoro would never impose his will in the paint because he gives up at least three inches and 30 pounds to King James.
Okoro is too small. Who else can guard LeBron?
Cedi Osman was supposed to be the successor to King James’ throne at the small forward position whenever LeBron left for the Lakers in 2018. Needless to say, it has not worked out that way. He showed some promise early on in his career, but he never could even come close to LeBron.
Osman does have a unique role on this Cleveland squad. He provides a nice spark to Cleveland’s rotation. He played 50 minutes in the first leg of their back-to-back triumph over Brooklyn. Again at Kyrie Irving’s expense, Osman displayed his penchant to bother opposing star players.
Can Osman make the same kind of disruption to LeBron’s game? Well, he is more familiar with LeBron than Okoro, because he played alongside him during his second stint in Cleveland. Still, that does not mean he has any more of a chance to stop him than would Okoro.
But speaking of stopping anybody, can the Lakers stop Cleveland’s breakout star, Collin Sexton?