Are the Celtics a Better Team than the Cavaliers?

Based off of their record, the Celtics are the best team in the Eastern Conference.

However, standing placement isn’t always an indication of a team being better than another. Take this past postseason as an example. While the C’s were the highest ranked team in the East, they were still no match for the Cavaliers. So, I must ask the question — are the Celtics REALLY the better than the Cavs?

Obviously, this is not the same team as last year. With the exception of 4 players, the Celtics have an entirely new squad. The C’s are now younger and lead by All Star point guard Kyrie Irving.

Following a short adjustment period the revamped Celtics are now thriving. Boston currently boasts the best overall record in the NBA and have won their last 8 games. Needless to say, a lot is going right for the green-and-white.

The same cannot be said for the Cavs. After finally breaking their losing streak against the Wizards, Cleveland dropped an ugly game against the 1-8 Atlanta Hawks. So far this season the Cavs have lost against the Hawks, Pacers, Nets and the Knicks. Yikes.

The primary reason for this is their lack of defense. The team currently ranks dead last in defensive rating at 111.7. They average the second fewest steals per game and struggle on the defensive glass. Add all of this up and it’s a formula for disaster.

This offseason the Cavs acquired a surplus of aging talent. Headlined by the likes of Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, they have not been able to consistently produce at both ends of the court. Defensively they are not communicating and just seem lost. Simply put, these veterans have lost a step.

Offensively they are not jelling either. What was once a well-balanced offensive loaded with three-point shooters has now lost its touch. Last season they ranked second in the league with 35.4% of their shots coming from behind the 3-point line. This year, the team ranks 20th getting just 28.2% of their points from this area.

In today’s NBA, 3-point shooting is a necessity to succeed. This lack of spacing has forced LeBron James to take on more of a scoring load. He’s currently averaging 29 points per game, which he has not done since 2010. In all of the team’s wins, James has had to do even more averaging 36 points, while playing 39 minutes. No matter how great James may be this is just not sustainable.

The Celtics are in a far different circumstance. The team currently has the best defense in the NBA with a rating of 94.7. In the categories of defensive rebounding, steals, and opponents second chance points the team ranks in the top-5. The Celtics D was even able to hold the high-powered Oklahoma City Thunder to just 94 points.

Offensively, the C’s play selfless basketball. With every starter averaging double-digits, the Celtics legitimately could have a different player lead the team in scoring any night. The budding chemistry of Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, mixed with the impressive young duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum has been nothing less than fantastic thus far.

Altogether the Celtics have been spectacular through the first 8 games, while the Cavs have not.

I realize Cleveland has gone through these cold stretches in the past, but something just feels different about this time.

Still, it’s difficult to imagine the C’s  beating a playoff LeBron James in a 7-game series.