With Lebron taking the Cavs back to the finals again this year, and going himself for the sixth time in a row and seventh time overall, I wanted to take the time to rank each of those seven rosters from weakest to best.
Here they are, The Seven Best Rosters Lebron James Has Lead To The NBA Finals
7. 2006/07 Cleveland Cavaliers
Lost to San Antonio 0-4
No matter what Lebron accomplishes for the rest of his career, or how many Championships he ends up with, getting this team to the finals will always be one of the most impressive things he’s done in his career.
Taking a team with Sasha Pavolvic as the starting two-guard to the NBA Finals is no small feat. Getting through the Eastern Conference into the Finals with this team is one of the most literal examples of “putting the whole team on your back.” The series against Detroit, specifically Game 5, will always be one of my favorite Lebron moments in a career full of awesome moments.
From top to bottom, this roster wasn’t great. Larry Hughes wasn’t a bad player, but was never equipped to be the savior he was brought in to be. He also missed two games in the finals and wasn’t himself in the two that he did play. Z was hurting, but still had his moments. Boobie Gibson showed some promise as a rookie, which was needed as Eric Snow and Donyell Marshall were starting to show their age. An underrated bright spot throughout the season was Drew Gooden, whose per 36 minutes averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds, but his inconsistency was beyond frustrating.
An aging roster, with their second best player not really available, and Sasha Pavlovic starting at the two guard isn’t quite what you need when facing the greatest power forward to ever play the game.
6. 2013/14 Miami Heat
Lost to San Antonio 1-4
This was the series that brought Lebron home, and for that I’m thankful.
After back to back titles, and three straight Eastern Conference Championships, it wasn’t surprising to see the Heat back in the finals for the fourth year in a row. What was surprising, is how much it looked like they didn’t belong there.
The Big Three was still intact, and Wade showed some of his regular moments of brilliance through the playoffs, and Bosh was as solid as you expect Bosh to be, but that was it.
The Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole combo could not stop Tony Parker, Tim Duncan was his usual quietly dominant self, and Kawhi Leonard emerged as a Superstar. Outside of the Big Three, the Heat could only throw out Ray Allen and Shane Battier at the end of their careers, Rashard Lewis well past his prime, and Birdman.
5. 2014/15 Cleveland Cavaliers
Lost to Golden State Warriors 2-4
This ranking is based solely on the roster the Cavs went into the Finals with, or else they’d be a spot higher. Missing Kevin Love hurt, and losing Kyrie Irving in Game 1 should have sealed the series for Golden State. But the Cavs still managed to take two games in the series thanks to Lebron having by far his best finals performance.
This was almost as close to putting the team on his back as his previous trip with Cleveland, but there was at least a little more talent around him this time. Lebron averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists. He dominated in six games and should have still won Finals MVP despite coming out on the losing end.
Kyrie and Love being out left the door open for Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson to step up and show their value, which they did. Timofey Mozgov had moments of greatness, but the small ball of the Warriors kept him off of the floor. JR Smith had an off series, Iman Shumpert was still hurting, and James Jones played as well as you could expect James Jones to play. That was it. The seven man rotation in a fast moving, hard fought series was too much to overcome.
There was talent on the roster that could have been used. Shawn Marion could have guarded Shaun Livingston when he was killing us, Mike Miller could have spread the floor a bit, and Kendrick Perkins could have added some needed physicality, but rookie coach David Blatt decided to go with the seven man rotation anyways.
4. 2010/11 Miami Heat
Lost to Dallas Mavericks 2-4
This was the birth of the Big Three, Lebron’s first year in Miami. All went well during the regular season, and through the playoffs, and even into the Finals as they jumped out to a 2-1 lead. But from there, Dirk Nowitzki was determined to cement his legacy as the second greatest Power Forward to ever play the game and Lebron put forth probably his worst playoff series of his career and the Mavericks came out ahead in the end.
The Big Three worked well for the first year. Wade was still playing at a Wade level, Lebron was flourishing with the most talent he’d ever had around him, and Bosh went from a franchise player to the best third-option in the league. But outside of that, there wasn’t much.
Joel Anthony, Mike Bibby, Mario Chalmers, Juwan Howard, Udonis Haslam, and Mike Miller definitely weren’t up to the task of picking up the slack when Lebron’s numbers dipped.
The Big Three were off to a solid start, but they weren’t quite there yet.
3. 2011/12 Miami Heat
Defeated Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1
This is where the Big Three proved themselves. They had a hard fight through the Eastern Conference, then dropped Game One, but then it all came together.
Lebron bounced back from his dismal (by his standard) Finals Appearance from the year before and absolutely dominated, averaging 28, 10, and 7. Shane Battier stepped up and did what he was brought to Miami to do, and the Norris Cole/Mario Chalmers combo was highly effective. It also didn’t hurt that Wade was healthy and playing great, and Bosh continued his solid play.
Miami was more than the Big Three this season. Battier added some help at their weaknesses the previous year, and the other roleplayers on the team had stepped up and settled into their roles.
2. 2012/13 Miami Heat
Defeated San Antonio Spurs 4-3
Not as dominant of a win as the previous year over the Thunder, but this was Miami’s most impressive title run.
This series is up there with the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals for one of my favorite Lebron series’. Wade and Bosh’s play had dropped off during this series, but Lebron’s elevated to ridiculous levels, including an absolutely dominant Game 7 to seal the repeat.
Ray Allen found the fountain of youth and played out of his mind this series, including the miraculous performance in Game 6 when it looked like the Spurs were going to wrap it up. That, along with solid minutes from Birdman, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier, were more than enough to pick up the slack from Wade and Bosh’s slight performance dip.
This was the team that looked ready to dominate for years to come.
1. 2015/16 Cleveland Cavaliers
Perhaps I’m jumping the gun on this one. Sure, the Finals haven’t started yet and we don’t know for sure what is going to happen. But what we do know, is that Lebron will be going into tipoff of Game One with the most talented roster he’s ever been on.
Lebron is playing the smartest ball of his career. He’s facilitating and doing whatever he needs to do when he needs to. His focus can be where it’s needed and doesn’t need to be on everything.
Kevin Love is playing his best ball since coming to Cleveland with shooting, rebounding and outlet passes that you can’t place a value on, and looks like the franchise player that was traded from Minnesota. Kyrie continues to prove himself as one of the best, most dynamic guards in the league, getting to the basket at will and being dealy with his jump shot. Tristan Thompson’s improved defense and consistent rebounding has left nobody questioning his enormous contract, and JR Smith has settled down and is playing great basketball on both ends of the court.
And that’s just the starting five. Iman Shumpert would be a starting two guard on half the teams in the league. Matthew Dellavedova should be a starting point guard somewhere, and likely will be next season. Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson have brought veteran leadership and have found roles on this team that they are filling perfectly.
And that’s just the bench players that are seeing the floor. Timofey Mozgov would be starting on probably 75% of teams at Center, but he’s not seeing any playing time. Mo Williams is a former All Star who dropped 52 points in a game just last season, and he’s not seeing any playing time. James Jones was the third best Cavs player on the court most times during the finals last year, and he’s not getting any time. Jordan McRae had a 60 point game in the D League this season and scored 36 in the only game he played significant minutes in this season, and he doesn’t even get to dress.
All this talent, being managed by Ty Lue, who is making it work. He’s adjusted the style of play to fit the roster, and they’re thriving.
Long story short, this team is deep. This team is built to overcome the type of injuries that did them in last season, but they’re currently absolutely healthy.
This is the deepest, most talent, most fun roster Lebron James has ever been a part of, title or not.