For all the hand-wringing in Cleveland these days, the Cavaliers are going to be just fine. The Golden State Warriors, meanwhile, are hitting their stride and clearly look like the No. 1 team in the NBA.
Barring something extraordinary these two teams are on a collision course for a third straight meeting in the NBA Finals.
Of course, we expected Golden State to march to a title last season, and fate had different ideas. With more than three months left in the regular season, we took a look at five things that could derail a Cavaliers-Warriors Finals matchup — plus one earth-shattering event to top them all. Enjoy.
The Cavaliers decide to stop spending money to get better
LeBron James and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert are reportedly at odds over LeBron's perception the organization is being cheap, and if the Cavaliers aren't willing to continue to add pieces, they could be vulnerable in the Eastern Conference.
Cleveland surely could use another point guard off the bench (Rajon Rondo, maybe, after the Chicago Bulls buy him out?) — yet adding another player to the roster will cost the Cavs big time, since they're already more than $20 million over the luxury tax.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
LeBron James falls apart from playing too many minutes
There's a reason LeBron is agitating for help. He knows that in the very near future, he needs to take significant time off during the season to rest ahead up for the playoffs.
LeBron has never suffered a major injury in his career, of course. Indeed, his durability is one of his greatest strengths. Yet at 32 years old, Father Time is starting to creep up on the King.
He leads the NBA in minutes per game this season — in a year where he's supposed to be taking it easy; more importantly, he's played nearly nine full seasons worth of minutes since he first switched teams in 2010. In fact, he's played over 2,800 minutes more than second-place Kevin Durant over that same span.
Ken BlazeKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Draymond Green tears the Warriors apart from within
Green is the heart and soul of Golden State — as well as the most volatile personality in the locker room. As long as he's happy, everything will work out just fine for the Warriors. But if Green notices his teammates' effort lagging, or if he thinks there are bigger problems at play with Steve Kerr's rotation, the All-Star forward won't be shy about making his voice heard.
An internal struggle seems like the only problem that can slow down the Warriors these days.
A major injury strikes (for either team)
LeBron essentially spoke for the Warriors as well as the Cavs when he complained about his team being too top-heavy earlier this week. Both squads rely entirely on their top four players, rotating a fifth player in depending on the situation and praying their benches can get the job done for a few minutes while the stars rest.
We saw how a Steph Curry injury affected Golden State last year. Even with Kevin Durant in town, any malady that forces a star to miss major time could rewrite the script on this season.
Someone in the West gets red-hot
The Warriors thrive on 3-pointers, to be sure, yet they're not as infatuated with the deep ball as the Houston Rockets. If the stars align and Golden State goes cold from behind the arc, Mike D'Antoni's squad could bury Golden State in a flurry of 3s in four out of seven games.
On the other side of the coin, there's Russell Westbrook. He's almost certainly not good enough to carry the Thunder to a seven-game upset by himself, but I wouldn't bet against him.
BONUS DERAILMENT: Act of God
Asteroid strike. Plague outbreak. Our planet's current ... situation.
Pick your favorite random cataclysmic event, and that might be the only thing that can prevent a Warriors-Cavaliers rubber match.