The 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers were tailor-made to succeed around LeBron James
Considering the limitations of the roster, this is easily the best roster James has ever had that didn’t have a third All-Star. This team was built to play defense. That was its identity. It was not meant to be a Phoenix Suns-like team that ran and shot the ball in under seven seconds. The 2007 Cavs team was built to stifle offenses, and it did that excellently.
The Cavs were fourth in team defensive rating for the year, and despite having just the 19th-highest-rated offense, still had the 7th-highest adjusted net rating as a team. As a team, the lowest-rated player according to their defensive net rating was Damon Jones with a 107. He was considered a “bad defender”. To be fair, fans did call him Amon Ones because he had no D or J. But that’s beside the point.
For comparison the 2022-2023 Cleveland Cavaliers, who were the highest-rated defense in the NBA this year, had just one player who had a defensive rating better than Jones. While the game is more geared to offense these days, this is a clear example of how the 07 Cavs were built, as a defensive unit. And a dang fine unit at that.
As a team, the Cavs ranked 4th in the league in 2007 in defensive rating during the regular season, and 2nd among all teams during that year’s playoffs. No, this was not a team that was known for its scoring, but it was excellent on defense. To say this team was bad would prove how little people actually know about this sport. Not a great offensive unit, but a great team nonetheless.
The team matched its star on the court at every turn. James had a defensive rating of just 100, on par or better than Bruce Bowen, Shawn Marrion, Shane Battier, Gerald Wallace, Ron Artest, Tyson Chandler, and Jermaine O’Neal. Also known as the players that finished second, fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth in Defensive Player of the Year voting that season.
I don’t think James deserved to win the award, but he certainly should’ve been in the Top 10, yet he didn’t register one vote for the award. You can’t dismiss the 07 Cavs as a bad team simply because they played defensive-minded basketball. That era of the Cavs was built around defense and they did that very well.