When and where: October 17, 2018, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON, CA, 7:30 PM ET
The post-LeBron James era begins in Cleveland when the Cleveland Cavaliers travel to Canada to take on the Toronto Raptors. There are no longer championship expectations for the Cavaliers after losing the best player in the world—at least not from an outside perspective. It’ll be interesting to see how the king-less Cavaliers fare in the season opener. They’ll be challenged right out the gates by a Raptors team that just added a top-five player in Kawhi Leonard.
Can the Cavaliers compete without James?
The biggest question mark heading into the 2018-2019 season is whether the Cavaliers have enough talent on their roster to compete in the Eastern Conference without James. It’s true the east isn’t exactly brimming with elite teams, outside of the Boston Celtics, and the Cavaliers still have perennial All-Star forward/center Kevin Love.
The confidence coming out of the Cavaliers organization has softened the blow for a Cleveland fan base reeling from losing James twice to a large market team—the first time being when he left for Miami to form a super team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and he left this year for Los Angeles to try and help jumpstart the Lakers organization.
However, it won’t be long until reality hits, and the Cavaliers come to the realization that things are much different without James carrying the load.
There are some nice complimentary pieces on the roster, including Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, Kyle Korver and Rodney Hood, but the lack of legitimate superstar talent will haunt them all season. It’s even worse considering Cleveland isn’t exactly an attractive destination for would-be free agents, especially with the opportunity of playing with James no longer on the table.
The Cavaliers went 2-2 in the preseason, including back-to-back wins over the Celtics.
Leonard becomes his own man
Leonard will have an opportunity to step out of the shadows and lead the Raptors as far as he’s able to take them in the Eastern Conference. Even in San Antonio, when he was the best player on the team, he still lived in the shadow of Gregg Popovich’s basketball system.
The Spurs head coach is the equivalent of Bill Belichick in the NBA, and his team-first system was never built off the back of superstars. Make no mistake, present and future Hall of Fame players have played for Popovich, but they have all existed in a system that values teamwork over individual accomplishments.
Leonard is no longer tethered to that culture. He is essentially a free man currently playing on a one-year deal with the Raptors. His star could shine brighter than ever before if he puts the Raptors in a position to compete for a championship. At the end of the season, he’ll have all the power to pick and choose where he wants to play next.
The Raptors finished the preseason with a 4-1 record.
- Raptors are 5-2-1 ATS in last 8 games played at home
- Raptors are 4-1-1 ATS in last 6 games after a win by more than 10 points
- Cavaliers are 0-4 ATS in last 4 games after giving up 100-plus points in previous game
- Cavaliers are 1-4 ATS in last 5 games against opponents that have given up 100-plus in previous game
- Cavaliers are 0-5 ATS in last 5 games played on a Wednesday
- Cavaliers are 17-37-1 ATS in last 55 games after a double-digit loss at home
- Cavaliers are 13-40-2 ATS in last 55 games after a loss by more than 10 point