Cleveland Cavaliers, often referred as the Cavs, constitutes one of the famous NBA teams right now. Founded in 1970, the team based in Cleveland, Ohio, slowly paved their way towards the contemporary glory. Enough to mention that their inaugural season started with 15 lost games in a row. That team did not resemble the perfectly oiled machine we know from the last years. Right now the Cavs have 5 conference titles and one NBA championship in their showcase. We invite for a time travel adventure, where you will see the rise of a sleeping giant from Cleveland.
Explaining Cavaliers’ story, it is impossible not to mention their legendary coach – Bill Fitch. The so called “Fitch era” was the time when the whole team was slowly built, noting at first many falls and debasements, but slowly and consequently developing year by year. Due to hard work and many talented junior players, Cavs reached for their first Division Title in 1976. The team was built around a brilliant youngster - Austin Carr, who unfortunately suffered a serious injury at the beginning of his NBA career. Other remarkable players were i.e. Bingo Smith, Jim Chones, Jim Cleamons or Dick Snyder and Nate Thurmond.
The next years brought lots of turbulences. The team was qualifying to the play-offs, but got always eliminated pretty early. Bill Fitch resigned and the team was taken over by Stan Albeck. It was also the time, when Ted Stepien took the ownership, bringing a disastrous period for the team. Stepien would be remembered by the fans for his practice of trading prospective young draft players for marginal veterans and constant coach changes. During the 1981–82 season the team was trained by four managers! The experiments ended with an incredibly bad balance at the end of the season (15–67) and an infamous record of a 24-game losing streak between March and November. The episode that many would like to erase from their memories ended in 1983, when brothers George and Gordon Gund purchased the Cavaliers in 1983. This was the time of the relative stabilization and improvement in the team’s performance. Between 1984 and 1998, Cavs were in the play-offs 10 times. The worst period came after that, when they failed to repeat it until 2005.
Being the worst can sometimes make you the best. The Cavaliers' luck changed as they landed the number 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft. The team had a hunch, while choosing the heralded forward and future NBA MVP LeBron James. Growing up in nearby Akron, the extremely talented youngster was a natural choice. The team won their first conference title in 2007, which was followed by division titles in 2009 and 2010. After the 2009-10 season, James decided to seek bigger challenges and play for Miami Heat. The repercussions of his decision left many Cleveland citizens infuriated and feeling betrayed. Next season Cavaliers noted their biggest drop of form in history. Fortunately, once again they had the rights for the number 1 pick in draft, choosing Kylie Irving, which was a light at the end of the tunnel for them. Orbiting around Irving, the team started to rebuild their fortune. In 2014, James returned to the Cavaliers, starting the best chapter in Cleveland’s basketball history. The Cavaliers made several moves to build a strong, championship-contending pack around James, most notably acquiring Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The power forward helped to create the famous “Big Three” with James and Irving. Led by LeBron, Cavaliers made four consecutive finals appearances in from 2015 to 2018, all against the Golden State Warriors, winning in 2016. The 2016 NBA Championship marked the Cavaliers' first title in franchise history, as they became the first team to come back from a 3–1 deficit to win the Finals.
Last season was pretty successful for the Cavs, but not successful enough for LeBron, who announced his transfer to L.A. Lakers after the season. The Cavs finished 5th in the Eastern Conference, qualifying smoothly to the play-offs, where they reached the finals after beating Indiana Pacers 4-3 in the first round, smoothly knocking off Toronto Raptors in the Semi-Finals (4-0), winning with Boston Celtics 4-3, however losing utterly against the Golden State Warriors 4-0. They ended the season with quite an impressive average of 110.5 points per game, noting 39.5 3-points throws usually. Most of the points were scored during the first two quarters. The last quarter shows the remarkable difference in points, having at this point the match already clinched.
Among the best players, we have of course LeBron James, who leads in the top points ranking, scoring 1834 points (29 per match). LeBron was also the best rebounder, assistant and stealer during the last season, having respectively 9.1 rebounds, 8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. These numbers explain everything, showing the true class of the player. Kylie Irving was the best 3-pointer, scoring 510 points this way (around 8.1 per game). He also showed incredible technique and accuracy, achieving an impressive 92% rate of free throws’ accuracy and a 39% accuracy rate when it comes to 3-point throws. Other players, which contributed highly to the season’s overall outcomes were Kevin Love, Kyle Korver or Jose Calderon.
Cavs’ biggest rivals are of course Chicago Bulls (due to geographical proximity) and Golden State Warriors (fresh, contemporary rivalry due to the NBA Playoffs Finals). The competition with the Bulls lasts from the League’s beginnings, additionally fueled by the rivalry in drafts (famous Michael Jordan and LeBron James’ cases).