In almost any endeavor -- but particularly in sports -- success or failure is measured by the meeting of expectations. The Cleveland Cavaliers, despite a recent stretch of futility, head into the 2014-15 NBA season with the greatest of expectations.
Their starting lineup consists of the game's best all-around player. It also consists of arguably the league's best power forward, and one of its up and coming star point guards. They have promising young talent. They have veteran leadership. They have players who compliment each other. They have a pretty deep bench. On paper, they have the potential to the best the best team in the NBA.
So what will constitute a successful season? Is it championship or bust?
Part of being a fan is about enjoying the experience of the season, regardless of the ultimate outcome. It's about the journey.
But setting some sort of expectation matters, because it will help determine at the end of the season whether or not David Blatt is the right coach for this job. It may also have an impact on the futures of LeBron James and Kevin Love, who are not under long-term contracts at the moment.
When setting the expectation, it's always good to look at precedent. The most recent examples of teams built around a "big three" were the 2007-08 Boston Celtics, and the 2010-11 Miami Heat. The Celtics won the 2008 title after adding Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to a team that already had Paul Pierce, but that was the only title that team won. The Heat, of course, won the East in 2011 but lost in the Finals. They did, however, win titles the next two seasons.
Based on that precedent, there shouldn't be any question that this Cavs team should be expected -- at a minimum -- to win the East. Most would agree that anything less would be a failure.
If they win the East and lose in the Finals, however, I'm not sure that we could comfortably call them a "failure." It would be a disappointment, at least in my mind, because I do think that this team is assembled in such a way that they should be the favorites to win the whole thing heading into the season. I realize what a bold position that is to take, especially in this city where I have not yet witnessed a championship for any of the professional teams that I root for. But everything that has happened in the past shouldn't matter. All that matters this season is this team. They are good. Really, really good. Good enough to win it all.
If they don't, we may be able to excuse it because there are teams from the West that are really good, too. There's also going to be some growing pains that come along with new guys playing with each other, as was demonstrated a little bit by Miami in 2011.
But if they don't win a title in the next two to three years, then that will certainly be a failure. At least in my book.