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NBA 2017-18 Eastern Conference Outlook: Can LeBron James and Cavs win East without Kyrie Irving?

NBA 2017-18 Eastern Conference Outlook: Can LeBron James and Cavs win East without Kyrie Irving?

CSN is looking around the league as we prepare for the 2017-18 NBA season. Today, we break down the Cleveland Cavaliers' outlook...

2016-17 record: 51-31, 2nd in East
Coach: Tyronn Lue
Key additions: PG Isaiah Thomas, SF Jae Crowder, PG Derrick Rose, SG Dwyane Wade
Key losses: PG Kyrie Irving
Projected lineup: PG Isaiah Thomas, SG J.R. Smith, SF LeBron James, PF Kevin Love, C Tristan Thompson

Biggest questions:

1. When will Thomas return?

The Cavaliers have a major wild card entering this season, as Thomas offers no guarantees with a faulty hip. He has a partially torn labrum in his right hip that ended his postseason, ironically in a series against the Cavs. And by opting to not have surgery, Thomas is still without a timeframe to return now months later.

The Cavs knew the risk when they traded for him and were able to get an extra draft pick because it. But when and how Thomas returns will determine plenty for them this year. If healthy, he should replace the void left by Irving quite nicely. But the longer he is out, the longer the Cavs will have to rely on Rose and Jose Calderon, who turns 36 during training camp.

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2. Can anyone knock them off?

Despite losing Irving and the uncertainty of Thomas, the Cavs should still be very good with James, Love and others in store, and last year they only lost one game in their demolition of the East during the playoffs. That said, LeBron's streak of seven straight NBA Finals could be on shaky ground. The Celtics added many pieces this summer and, if it all clicks early, could be better. The Raptors will have Kyle Lowry healthy and Serge Ibaka for a full season. The Wizards will be one year older with a young team on the rise. And the Bucks could make a big leap with Giannis Antetokounmpo continuing to develop. Everyone is gunning for the Cavs and their major changes this offseason could make the East more wide open than it has been in several years.

3. Is this LeBron's final year in Cleveland?

Cavaliers fans may want to watch as many games as they can this year because it could be their last with LeBron. The NBA's best player has just one year left on his contract and the rumors have already started. At this point none of those rumors seem very legitimate, however, the possiblity of him leaving is certainly there and Cleveland fans know the feeling all too well. 

If LeBron were to exit, it would be hard to fault him. He already won Cleveland a title and only has so much time left in his prime. Cavs fans should accept whatever happens and just appreciate the time they have with him in town.

More 2017-18 previews:

Toronto Raptors

Milwaukee Bucks

Chicago Bulls

Indiana Pacers

[RELATED: CAN WALL FOLLOW THROUGH ON KOBE'S CHALLENGE?]

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John Wall proclaims himself as the best shot-blocking point guard in NBA history

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USA Today Sports Images

John Wall proclaims himself as the best shot-blocking point guard in NBA history

If you have thought to yourself over the years that John Wall is very good at blocking shots for a point guard, then don't worry, he's fully aware. Wall, in fact, believes there has never been one better in the history of the game.

Seriously. Wall staked his claim after Friday night's win over the Pistons, one in which he had two jawdropping blocks; one against a power forward and the other with just 14 seconds left to help seal the victory.

"That's just me playing defense. I think I'm the best shot-blocking point guard in NBA history. I'm trying to set records," he said.

First, let's look at the aforementioned blocks before we break down Wall's proclomation. The power forward who felt his wrath was Tobias Harris. Wall is 6-foot-4 and Harris is 6-foot-8:

The second block was as timely as it gets. If Wall doesn't swat this one away, who knows how the game turns out:

Wall understandably got some serious praise for those plays.

"Those are blocks that point guards are not supposed to make, but he has a special ability to make those plays throughout the game," head coach Scott Brooks said.

"It's the will to win, man," Bradley Beal said. "It's a timing thing. A lot of his transition ones, I will cut the guy off just so he can go block it. It's all about timing. He has great timing and great athleticism."

Now, for Wall's claim itself. There certainly aren't many guards who come to mind for shot-blocking. Dwyane Wade is known as being one of the best, but he's a shooting guard.

Wade, in fact, has the most career blocks ever for a guard with 802. Wall, though, has the second-most among active players at the guard position with 326. He's already 10th in NBA history for guards. Here is the top 10:

1. Dwyane Wade - 802*
2. Clyde Drexler - 719
3. Dennis Johnson - 675
4. Jason Kidd - 450
5. Kendall Gill - 432
6. Latrell Sprewell - 399
7. Jason Richardson - 367
8. Baron Davis - 360
9. Doc Rivers - 351
10. John Wall - 326*

*active
(via Basketball Reference)

That's an excellent list of NBA names to be a part of. Only Johnson, Kidd, Davis and Wall are point guards, meaning Wall is already fourth all-time in career blocks at his position and the active leader. To set the all-time record, he will need 350 more to pass Johnson. That won't be easy, but it's feasible based on his career numbers.

Wall averaged 46 blocks per year in his first seven seasons. He would have to keep going at that rate for more than 7 1/2 seasons to pass Johnson. Given Wall is 27, he would have to still be blocking shots in his mid-30s.

It is certainly possible. Wall has averaged 0.6 blocks per game in his career and Wade is still at that pace now at Age 35. Wade, however, was averaging over a block per game in his prime, when he was Wall's age.

Wall may need to pick up his pace a bit to back up the claim he made on Friday night, but there's no denying that he's on track to at least make it interesting.

[RELATED: WHY OUBRE IS READY FOR A LARGER ROLE]

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Wizards hold off Pistons behind Otto Porter's huge night, John Wall's double-double

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Wizards hold off Pistons behind Otto Porter's huge night, John Wall's double-double

The Washington Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons 115-111 on Friday night at Capital One Arena. Here's analysis of what went down...

How it happened: Part of what the Wizards need from Otto Porter now that he has received a max contract is more on the offensive end, the more-than-occasional game where he takes pressure off of John Wall and Bradley Beal with a convincing offensive effort. They got just that in a win over the Pistons on Friday night.

While the team struggled mightily on defense early, Porter helped keep them in it with 20 points in the first half. He shot 9-for-13 from the field and didn't hit one three-pointer. Porter kept it going with six points in the third quarter and ended up with 28 on the night.

The Pistons had their way on offense throughout the first half. They led 65-58 and shot 55.1 percent. Despite shooting 63.2 percent themselves, the Wizards trailed by seven after two quarters. 

Washington led 91-81 after three after holding Detroit to 16 in the third and saw that lead grow to 15 with a 7-2 run to begin the fourth. That push was keyed by mostly bench players after they struggled to maintain momentum in the first half. Once they started to lose grip and let the Pistons cut the lead to 98-90 with 8:19 remaining, Scott Brooks called a timeout and brought the starters back in. That didn't exactly stop the bleeding, as an Avery Bradley three locked the game at 102-102 with five minutes left.

Detroit kept answering the bell when the Wizards would make a push. Rookie Luke Kennard (11 points), the 13th overall pick out of Duke, was impressive off their bench. Andre Drummond grabbed 12 rebounds, but fouled out with 9:15 left in the fourth. Tobias Harris (15 points, three rebounds) didn't recreate his monster season-opener, but was effective nonetheless.

Beal helped close out the win with a pivotal and-1 layup with 2:06 left. He was challenged by Jon Leuer at the rim, but got it to go in off the glass. That put the Wizards up 111-106. Wall then secured the victory with a block on Reggie Jackson with 14 seconds left. Jackson charged the lane and Wall swatted it away with his left hand.

Wall (27 points, 10 assists, two blocks) had his first double-double of the season despite committing seven turnovers. Beal dropped 24 points to go along with four assists and four boards. Marcin Gortat had an average night compared to his season-opener with 10 points and eight rebounds. 

The Wizards moved to 2-0 on the year with two wins against teams that could be in the Eastern Conference playoff picture come April.

What it means: The Wizards took care of business with two wins at home before they head west. That may end up looking very important in hindsight. 

Smith sidelined: Jason Smith was held out with a sprained right shoulder. Kelly Oubre, Jr. got the start in his place and got the game started with a steal and dunk on the other end for the Wizards' first points. Overall, Oubre didn't make nearly the impact he did in the season opener. He finished with four points and six rebounds in 35 minutes.

Wall put on a show: Wall's numbers may look modest by his standards, but he was lighting up the highlight reel on both ends of the floor. He crossed up Jackson for a nasty stepback jumper in the first quarter. In the second quarter he blocked Harris, who is a power forward. How many point guards can do that, like, in the history of the game? Not many. 

Wall also had this beautiful layup on the fastbreak:

Bench a mixed bag: The Wizards were starting to take control in the third quarter when backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks helped them grow their lead. He had six points in the third and came out with an early three in the fourth. He finished with nine points in 15 minutes. The bench, however, had another uneven night. Tim Frazier went scoreless for the second straight game, but did dish four assists. 

Up next: The Wizards have the weekend off before heading out on a very early West Coast trip. They see the upstart Denver Nuggets first on Monday night. That one tips off at 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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