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NBA 2015-16 Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers favored to win title

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The NBA champs Golden State Warriors are probably mighty pissed off right now because a significant number of pundits don’t expect them to successfully defend the title they won last year.  In a preseason poll of general managers in the NBA, 58 percent of respondents picked the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2015-16 title. 

The general managers gave the Warriors 18 percent chance to retain their title. It is as if the pundits are suggesting that the Warriors’ championship victory last year was a fluke.  Maybe the champs will use this slight as motivation to simply go complete psycho on the opposition as the season progresses. 

Without a doubt, the Cavaliers faithful will argue with some justification that their team would probably not have lost the championship series four games to two to the Warriors in the finals last season had guard Kyrie Irvin and forward Kevin Love, two All-Star players, not gone down to injuries.  

Now the Cavs have to live up to expectations by winning their first title in team history for their long suffering fans.

If the prognosticators turn out to be right, and the Cavs win their first title for a city that has not won any major championship in half a century, James will have become an even bigger hero to millions in the state of Ohio than he is now.  

There is no question that the Cavaliers are the best team in the weaker Eastern Conference.  With the exception of the Chicago Bulls in the east, no one expects the likes of the Washington Wizards, the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat, and the Toronto Raptors to threaten the supremacy of the Cavs.

The Western Conference is in a class of its own. The west boasts a bunch of teams that can make it to the finals on the strength of the caliber of players on teams like the defending champion Warriors, five-time  champ San Antonio Spurs; the deep and talented L A Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Kevin Durant-led Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Houston Rockets.

Here is how some pundits and fans see the 2015-16 season playing out barring any major injuries to key players in either conference:

In the East, most people expect the Chicago Bulls to push the Cavs to the limit before succumbing to their Central Division rivals in the conference finals.

In the West, some see a scenario in which the champion Warriors will engage in a titanic struggle with hated arch rivals the L.A. Clippers   in the conference finals en route to their second straight appearance in the NBA finals.  

However, a number of experts are predicting a Western Conference face-off between the defending champs and the Spurs, who are much more improved this season with the addition of Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. These analysts see San Antonio narrowly edging out the champions for the bragging rights to represent the West.

If the Spurs and Cavs end up playing for the title, it will be a rematch of their 2007 showdown in which the Spurs simply put the clamp on King James en route to sweeping them in the finals. But that is ancient history now; James has since then gone to the finals five times and won two titles.  

In an 82-game season, anything can happen, but if everyone stays healthy, basketball fans should expect these two teams to push each other to their physical limits in a series that may very well be decided in game seven.

Smorgasbord:

Kobe Bryant, one of the top ten players of all time in the NBA, according to most experts, may very well be playing his last season in the league.  The Black Mamba, a five-time champ with the Lakers, would have loved to win another title to match the six championship rings of his idol, Michael Jordan.

The 2015-16 season is not having an auspicious beginning for the defending champion Warriors whose coach Steve Kerr is sidelined with a back injury. While Coach Kerr is out, his assistant Luke Walton will assume managerial duties.

The Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich has been chosen to lead the USA Basketball team after current coach Mike Krzyzewksi’s tenure ends in 2017.

A couple of marquee matchups on opening day Tuesday worth streaming: The champion Warriors kick off the defense of their title at home against rising superstar Anthony Davis and his plucky New Orleans Pelicans; and the Cavaliers head to Chicago to take on the Derrick Rose-led Bulls in a preview of future battles to come between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference….

By Bayo Akinnagbe

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