Toronto Raptors

In the East, it's the Cavs and then everyone else _ again

The Cleveland Cavaliers know what it feels like to enter the season as Eastern Conference favorites.

They begin this one with an entirely unfamiliar label — defending champions.

The rest of the East has spent the last six years unsuccessfully trying to unseat LeBron James from the throne. Whether he has been in Cleveland or Miami, James has led his team to the NBA Finals every year since 2011. But his crowning achievement came last season, when his Cavaliers captured the city's first pro sports championship in 52 years by defeating the record-breaking Golden State Warriors.

Now the Cavaliers are wearing an even bigger target on their backs.

"It's the...