I am the farthest thing from a LeBron James fan. However, there's no denying the effect he has on the balance of power in the NBA. LeBron won two games in the Finals with Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Timofey Mozgov, Iman Sumpert, Mathew Dellavedova and James Jones as his running mates.
Imagine how that squad would do without LeBron? Are they the worst team in the league? I definitely wouldn't bet on them in a playoff series vs. the Timberwolves with Kevin Garnett, Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins. I might take those Cavs vs. a Carmelo Anthony-less Knicks club or the Lakers sans Kobe Bryant, but it's still probably a toss-up.
LeBron is single-handedly the difference between tanking for the No. 1 pick and contending for the title. With that in mind, how many other teams could LeBron have won the championship with this season?
I'm guessing any of the Western Conference playoff qualifiers would have won it all with LeBron on their rosters--likely the Thunder too. What about in the East? Hawks? Bulls? Wizards? Probably. Maybe the Raptors and Bucks as well. The Celtics? Hmm... Let's take a look, if only because it's a summer weekend and this is the kind of silly stuff I wonder about.
The funny thing is, Boston already played a similar style as the Cavs, with Evan Turner in the LeBron point-forward role. Make that switch, and how good does the C's offense become? Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko are probably permanently open for corner threes. Maybe James Young and Luigi Datome actually get some real burn as the guys left uncovered beyond the arc when LeBron drives to the rim?
Cleveland had nothing on offense when LeBron was out of the game. With the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas is there to take over as the main scoring option when necessary. Boston could also easily have matched the Warriors' small lineups with Brandon Bass at center and Jae Crowder at power forward. And if Dellavedova looked good at times guarding Stephen Curry, imagine what the combination of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart would've done?
LeBron's Cavaliers ran out of gas because they had no bench--the Celtics could have chased Golden State up and down the court all day, going 10 or 11 deep.
The question is, would LeBron have entrusted his team to Brad Stevens, considering he obviously didn't yield control of the Cavs to David Blatt? I'd say it's a 50/50 shot, but it's probably the only thing that might've kept the 2014-15 Celtics from winning the title with LeBron on their roster.
Follow Mark Vandeusen on Twitter @LucidSportsFan
Mark Van Deusen 6/21/2015 11:30:00 AM Tweet Edit