Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to get over their second LeBron James hangover. The franchise has been around since the 1970-71 season, but its best moments came with James in its lineup. Unfortunately, twice James has left as a free agent, and both instances left the team struggling just to contend for the postseason in the years that followed.

The team heads into the season with some hope for the future, however. J.B. Bickerstaff has a young and up-and-coming team at his disposal, one that had an average age of 21.6 among its starting lineup on opening night. If things can come together as the team hopes, this squad could grow into a playoff contender and stay that way for a while.

Cleveland Cavaliers History

The Cavaliers became a member of the NBA as an expansion team for the 1970-71 season, and they had some of the typical early struggles of an expansion squad. A division title and trip to the Eastern Conference finals came in 1975-76, but the team was never really in title contention despite a number of moves over the following seasons.

The “Stepien Rule” was made for the league, limiting how many picks a team can deal after Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien traded away future first-round picks to cripple the team for years. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the team finally put things together and challenge for the Eastern Conference crown, but even with perennial All-Stars Brad Daughtery and Mark Price leading the way, the team was unable to get through to the NBA Finals.

The franchise’s fortunes took a major turn with the winning of the 2003 draft lottery, which brought LeBron James to the team. The high schooler was an immediate force and eventually led the Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. James ended up leaving the team as a free agent after the 2009-10 season, sinking Cleveland back into lottery land, where it won the No. 1 overall pick three times in four years.

James came back to the Cavaliers prior to the 2014-15 campaign and, teaming with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, made Cleveland a title contender immediately. James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2015, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors. But the next season, facing Golden State in a rematch in the Finals, Cleveland rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win the first NBA title in franchise history.

The next two seasons brought two more rematches with the Warriors in the Finals, though Cleveland lost them both. James left as a free agent in the summer of 2018, and the team was immediately a lottery regular once again, having missed the playoffs in every season since.

Cleveland Cavaliers Championships

The Cleveland Cavaliers have just one NBA title, but it was certainly a memorable one. Trailing the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals by a 3-1 deficit, the Cavaliers rallied to win the series on the road in seven games for the only league championship in franchise history. LeBron James was named the Finals MVP.

The Cavaliers have won the Eastern Conference title a total of five times, including four straight from 2015 to 2018. Cleveland also earned a trip to the NBA Finals in 2007, defeating the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals for their first conference title.

Cleveland has won seven Central Division titles, with the first coming in the 1975-76 season. The team won two straight in 2008-09 and 2009-10, then took four in a row from 2014-15 to 2017-18.

Important Team Events

The most important events in Cleveland Cavaliers history seem to all have revolved around LeBron James. The team’s fortunes turned in 2003 when it won the NBA draft lottery for the right to select the high schooler from Akron, Ohio. He made an immediate impact, making the Cavaliers a perennial playoff team and building into a possible title contender with a trip to the 2007 NBA Finals.

James’ departure for the Miami Heat as a free agent in 2008 set the franchise back in a big way. Morale was down after the superstar left, leaving his home-state team as a lottery club that struggled to even reach .500. That continued until James decided to return to the team prior to the 2014-15 season, making it his mission to bring a championship to the Cavaliers.

James followed through on that mission, leading Cleveland to its first NBA title in 2016 with a win over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. James’ quest for a second title lasted just two seasons, however, before he left as a free agent again, this time to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Cleveland Cavaliers Top Players

LeBron James is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history, and he’s definitely the top player to ever don the Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. James is the leading scorer in franchise history, won two NBA MVP awards during his first stint with the club, and led the Cavaliers to their only NBA title. James also had a hand in Cleveland’s other four trips to the NBA Finals and made the Cavaliers into an instant title contender when he returned to the team from the Miami Heat.

Mark Price was a perennial All-Star during his time with the Cavaliers from 1986 to 1995, earning All-NBA first-team honors for the 1992-93 season. Price helped Cleveland become a title contender during his time with the club, and he still ranks second in assists and third in three-pointers in club history.

Center Brad Daugherty came to the Cavaliers at the No. 1 overall pick in 1986, spending his entire NBA career with the team until recurring back troubles forced his retirement at age 28. Daugherty retired as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder and was an NBA All-Star selection five times during his eight seasons with Cleveland.

Top Coaches

Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens was on the sideline for the most regular-season wins in Cavaliers history, racking up 316 victories in his seven seasons in Cleveland. Wilkens had the Cavaliers in the postseason five times in his seven seasons, including one trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 1991-92.

The early years of the Cavaliers featured some tough times, but Bill Fitch was still able to put together a solid enough team to win 304 regular-season games over his nine seasons. Fitch led Cleveland to its first three playoff appearances, including an Eastern Conference finals loss in 1976, and he was the NBA’s Coach of the Year winner in 1975-76 after guiding the Cavaliers to their first Central Division title.

Though he had a short reign as head coach, Tyronn Lue needs to be on the list of top Cavaliers coaches for his part in the team’s only NBA title. Lue took over for David Blatt as head coach in the middle of the 2015-16 season, guiding the team to a 57-25 record and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Lue then helped orchestrate the team’s run to the NBA title, including a rally from a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Lue earned two more division titles, and NBA Finals trips the following two seasons but was let go six games into the 2018-19 campaign. If you love sports and want more sports betting information follow us as @InsidersBetDig on Twitter and sign up to our mailing list for free betting picks.

Cleveland Cavaliers FAQs

LeBron James scored 23,119 points during his 11 seasons with the Cavaliers, the most in franchise history.

The Cavaliers have picked first overall in the NBA Draft six times, taking Austin Carr (1971), Brad Daugherty (1986), LeBron James (2003), Kyrie Irving (2011), Anthony Bennett (2013), and Andrew Wiggins (2014).

The Cavaliers have won the NBA title just once, defeating the Golden State Warriors in seven games in the 2016 NBA Finals.

Lenny Wilkens had 316 regular-season wins during his seven seasons as the Cavaliers head coach.

Two players have won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award for the Cavaliers: LeBron James (2003-04) and Kyrie Irving (2011-12).

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