The Warriors are the overwhelming favorites to win the 2017 NBA title, but the way the Cavaliers have played while getting off to a 5-0 start in the playoffs thus far, there's no denying that the championship will go through Cleveland when all is said and done.
The Cavs appear to be the class of the East, and have proven to be more than capable of dealing with the problems these Warriors pose. But since nothing is guaranteed, here are five things that could potentially derail a Cavaliers run at back-to-back titles. (And just so you know we're not playing favorites, check out the flip side with our five reasons the Warriors won't win it all.)
Kyle TeradaKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
An injury could change everything
Both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving went down with season-ending injuries in the 2015 playoffs, and LeBron James still managed to guide his team to two victories in the Finals before the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in six.
We've already seen injuries affect these playoffs; Blake Griffin going down in L.A. and Rajon Rondo being ruled out in Chicago doomed their respective teams' chances of advancing past the first round.
The Cavaliers have a world-class offense, but they'll need to be at 100 percent to have a chance against any team that comes out of the West. One injury to a key player is all it would take to prevent Cleveland from repeating as champion.
History says their defense isn’t good enough
Remember when LeBron James got into it on the court with Tristan Thompson late in the regular season over a defensive mistake against the Pacers? Sure you do. That was a microcosm of Cleveland's entire season on that end of the floor, and that performance was reflected in some numbers that figure to put the team on the wrong side of history.
The Cavaliers finished 22nd in defensive efficiency during the regular season, and should they win the title, they'd be the lowest-ranked team in that category to do so since the 2001 Lakers. There have been 92 teams that have played for a championship since 1971, and only 11 of them have finished outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency.
If Cleveland stumbles before making it to the Finals or has trouble containing a high-powered offense like the one the Warriors possess, no one can say they didn't see it coming.
A key player could get suspended
The 2016 Finals turned in the Cavaliers' favor the moment that Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5. Golden State held a 3-1 lead in the series (as you might remember), but Green's absence opened the door for what eventually became the most stunning Finals comeback in NBA history.
We're not saying that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love will do something silly enough to warrant the league taking similar action. But we saw J.R. Smith get suspended two playoff games in 2015 for an incident against the Celtics, and we just saw Dahntay Jones get ejected in Cleveland's Game 1 win over the Raptors on Monday.
Things can escalate on the court pretty quickly, and it wouldn't be a stretch to see one of the Cavaliers' stars accidentally dragged into something that one of their lesser players started.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron can't afford to begin to show signs of slowing down
It's remarkable the things LeBron has been able to do at 32 years old, playing in his 14th NBA season. The miles on his body are almost unprecedented, considering he's on a path to reach the NBA Finals for a seventh consecutive season. And yet, he's playing 43.2 minutes per game while leading his team to a 5-0 start in this year's playoffs.
Father Time is undefeated, however, and we know there will come a day when LeBron can no longer perform as the game's greatest player. If it happens at any point in this postseason, that'll be the end of the dream for the 2017 Cavaliers.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
The Warriors can simply outscore them
We've already touched on the Cavaliers' relatively dreadful defense, and if Cleveland is going to win another title, it's going to have to outscore teams the rest of the way. But that's a lot to ask against the Golden State Warriors, who led the league in offensive efficiency during the regular season and feature three of the game's best shooters in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant.
A chase-down block in a close game is something we can reliably expect LeBron to provide, but Cleveland's offense will need to be firing on all cylinders just to keep things close enough for James and Irving to have a chance of repeating their heroics in the championship round for a second straight season.