As for the Philadelphia 76ers, we’re not sold that this hasn’t merely been the byproduct of a favorable postseason draw against the injured (Bulls) and aged (Celtics).
Then there are the Orlando Magic, who have no coach, no general manager, and soon may have no superstar center.
So who’s next? Who joins the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls atop the Eastern Conference going forward?
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Well, these past two weeks certainly have made it clear that Heat-Pacers is a rivalry swiftly gaining legs.
But there is one team that could change the face of the East with a stroke of good fortune on Wednesday night. And, no, not because that is Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
When it comes to Wednesday’s NBA Draft lottery, beware the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Particularly if you’re the team with whom LeBron James holds an opt-out clause for the 2014 offseason.
Already set with Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving at point guard, the Cavaliers, who tied for the third-worst record in the NBA this season through some creative late-season tanking, enter the lottery with a 13.8-percent chance of landing the top overall pick.
They moved up last year to land Irving, and if they do it again, would there be a team in the NBA with a stronger youthful power base moving forward than one that possesses Irving and Anthony Davis, the sure-thing forward from Kentucky?
Oh, and the Cavaliers are positioned with oodles of cap space for 2013, and, more significantly, 2014, especially if the non-guaranteed portion of Anderson Varejao’s contract is bypassed. And all of that is not even counting the expected continued emergence of 2011 lottery pick Tristan Thompson, the Cavs’ second-team All-Rookie selection.
No other team at the top of Wednesday’s odds stands to make as significant a statement as the Cavaliers with lottery success.
At the top of the board are the Charlotte Bobcats, with a 25-percent chance of the No. 1 overall pick. All that would do is make the NBA’s all-time worst team into merely a bad one.
Seeded second in the lottery are the Washington Wizards, with a 19.9-percent chance of the top overall pick. But we’ve already been here with the Wizards when they landed the top overall pick and John Wall two years ago. That lottery success took them right back to these depths.
But then there are the Cavaliers, and the deep pockets of owner Dan Gilbert, whose pockets figure to only get deeper with his new downtown Cleveland casino. Motto: Quarters for free agents.
For the Cavaliers, there is little question the arrow is pointing up. They didn’t have to be that bad this past season; they chose to be.
And if it’s not Davis, even holding their position at No. 3 in the lottery would provide the reward of the likes of a Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal, who would get all the scoring opportunities they could desire courtesy of Irving, a player with a maturity beyond his years.
Perhaps that is why LeBron didn’t close the door on a Cavaliers reunion when the Heat visited Cleveland this season. Perhaps he sensed the possibilities.
In 2014, Dwyane Wade will be 32, the downside showing. By then, because of an onerous luxury tax that goes into effect in 2013, Chris Bosh might already be gone.