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Cavs NBA Finals Odds

No King James, no problem? It has been 25 years since the Cleveland Cavaliers made the postseason without LeBron James on the roster, missing the playoffs in each of the last four seasons since James left for Hollywood and the Lakers. But 2023 will be different, with Cleveland's elite core racing out to a 22-13 start in the East that, as of this writing, gives them a 99.8% chance of making the postseason (per Basketball Reference).

And what was laughable four seasons ago when James departed and the Cavaliers limped to a 19-63 record, there's real value in Cleveland's NBA Finals odds. Still, they're far from favorites at Caesars Ohio Sportsbook with +2000 title odds.

Bettors who use the Caesars Ohio promo code can earn first bet insurance up to $1,500 before they place their title bets on Cleveland.

Those odds definitely feel long for a team just a few games out of the top spot in their conference and a roster littered with postseason experience. We'll dive into the numbers and explain why J.B. Bickerstaff's group could be poised to make a run into May and June. Will 2016 repeat itself? Here's why it might:

Donovan Mitchell finally gives Cleveland a true No. 1 scoring option

Prior to the 2022-23 season, Cleveland's leading scorers in the post-James era were Collin Sexton (16.7 in 2019; 20.8 in 2020; 24.3 in 2021) and Darius Garland (21.7 in 2022). Both are great scorers - and Garland is quickly becoming one of the better distributors in the league - but the NBA postseason is about elite scorers coming up big when the games matter most.

Enter Donovan Mitchell. Cleveland went big in the offseason, dealing for the three-time All-Star who was coming off a 25.9-point campaign in 2022. Even better, Mitchell has saved some of his best basketball for the postseason - his 28.3 points per game in the playoffs are seventh all-time behind Jordan, Doncic, Iverson, Durant, West, and LeBron. That's six Hall of Famers with 13 NBA championships.

Mitchell has been even better in Cleveland, averaging a career-best 28.5 points on 49.2% shooting, nearly 42% from deep, and 88.2% from the stripe (all career-bests, too). There are nine players in the 50/40/90 club, and Mitchell has an outside shot to make it ten.

While it's true the Cavs will likely go as far as their defense takes them - Mitchell is 15th in the NBA in steals, by the way - the postseason often comes down to shot-making, and Mitchell is doing that at the best rate of his sparkling young career.

Cleveland's Twin Towers pacing the NBA on the defensive end

An elite scorer is good to have in the postseason. Pairing him with an elite defense? That’s great to have. As of this writing, the Cavaliers tout the NBA's top defense (allowing 107.8 points per 100 possessions). Think that's a recipe for success? Consider the last 10 NBA champions' average defensive rank was 6.0, with no team worse than 11th (the 2018 Warriors that had arguably the greatest offense of all-time).

The leading contributors? Center Jarrett Allen (10.1 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals) and budding star Evan Mobley (9.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 0.7 steals). Cleveland has zigged (gone big) when the NBA has zagged (small-ball hoops), though Mobley's versatility certainly lets them play with a bit more freedom. Mitchell and Garland are hounding defenders, and they're getting solid contributions from Caris LeVert, Dean Wade, and Lamar Stevens on the wing.

This group has staying power. This isn't a flash in the pan. They were fifth in defensive efficiency a season ago despite their late collapse - and adding Mitchell to the mix has only strengthened this group. They have the ability to score, but their defense makes it so that they might not have to each night when the playoffs roll around.

They match up well with the East's best

The NBA season is less than 50% complete, and yet the Cavaliers are already building a solid resume that should have bettors and fans excited. Through 35 games, Cleveland already holds wins over Boston (twice), Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and the Knicks. The postseason is, of course, a different animal - but racking up regular season wins against these foes is a momentum builder when the spring rolls around.

Their versatility can't be overlooked, either. They can beat teams a number of different ways. Garland has two 40+ point games and a 51-point outing, while Mitchell has three 40+ point games himself. If they're not bombing away in the backcourt, they can also lock down defensively - they've held 12 teams under 100 points this season, a considerable feat considering the league average is now 113.5 points, the highest mark since 1970.

Being more than a one-trick pony will serve Cleveland well once they reach the postseason. They can lock down defensively in low-scoring affairs with the Bucks or Sixers, or go shot-for-shot with the Celtics and Nets.

With Mitchell and Garland leading the way on offense, and Allen and Mobley locking down the interior, there aren't too many weaknesses on this roster - they're second in the NBA in net rating (behind only Boston) for a reason. Whether that translates to postseason success remains to be seen, but oddsmakers may be a bit late in catching up to the prowess and potential that this group has. Don't expect these odds to do anything but shorten as the season progresses.