With their win over the Sacramento Kings, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers tied the franchise record of a 13-game regular season winning streak. Their season started with a dramatic win over Kyrie Irving's Boston Celtics.
But it went all downhill after that. They lost seven out of their next 11 games, leaving a big question mark on their presumed dominance in the Eastern Conference.
Undoubtedly, several factors were against them initially, especially the drastic change of the roster, including moves such as the trade of Irving to Boston and the exit of Richard Jefferson.
They did add All-Star Isaiah Thomas, role players Jae Crowder and Jeff Green, and veterans Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose. But injuries to Thomas, James and Rose further compounded the problems for the new-look team.
Rose has already indicated a possible early retirement due to his struggles with injuries. James even expressed his frustration on the team's progress in his now famous Instagram post.
The current turnaround can be attributed to several factors. James is producing astonishing numbers, as he is averaging 28.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists despite averaging 37.2 minutes per game in his 15th year in the league.
He already looks like a serious Most Valuable Player candidate for the season, and winning the award is a feat that no other player has achieved in his 15th year. He is showing great mental strength and he has been lifting his performance when closing out games, something that has been criticized about him several times in the past.
The team are rotating the ball better than they did at the beginning, as they now average 22.9 assists per game. Kevin Love is contributing more in scoring with an average of 19.2 points per game now that Irving left.
The team's defensive rotations are more coordinated and systematic, but that area still requires work, as they rank 21st out of 30 in the league in scoring defence. The bench players are more productive, and Wade now looks like the leader of their second unit. This is the case despite the initial questions as to whether Wade or J.R. Smith would fill in the shooting guard position in the starting five.
Obviously it is still the start of the season, so the Cavaliers will encounter a break to this winning streak. The injured Thomas is yet to return and it will be interesting to see how they shape up after he does.
Thomas in the point guard position will mean James will see less of this duty. It will be interesting to see how a new ball-sharing system works between the two stars. Thomas will also be a liability on defense due to his small 5'8'' frame.
Moreover, with the NBA entering into a new "superteam" era, the Cavs have not yet been tested against genuine contenders. The work is far from over if they wish to take on the Goliath from the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors, who are now their arch nemesis.
And after a one heck of a summer that re-organized the NBA due to several unprecedented trades, the Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets all look like teams that can lift the banner in the playoffs as well.Published 08 Dec 2017, 08:45 IST