LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are making their third straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance on Wednesday in Game 1 against the Boston Celtics. In total, it’s been seven years since a LeBron led team did not win the Eastern Conference — Boston topped Orlando in 2010 — and based on how the first two rounds went for Cleveland, it doesn’t seem as though that dominance is coming to an end very soon.
However, at some point, father time will catch up to James and he will, theoretically, go into decline — unless he is, in fact, a robot and plays forever. At 32 years old, the clock is ticking on James and when he is no longer the most dominant player in basketball or simply retires out of boredom, there will be a void in the Eastern Conference that must be filled. The question is, who will be there to take Cleveland’s place as the East’s best team.
Teams with stars in their primes now may end up missing their window because of LeBron, but for teams building for the future in the East, LeBron’s eventual departure from the top represents hope that they can take his place. Joel Embiid knows this and he thinks that the Sixers, who just landed the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft on Tuesday night, are set up to be that team that pounces when James and the Cavs start to fall.