Before Thursday’s trade deadline, there was some question as to whether or not the Cleveland Cavaliers should still be favored to win the Eastern Conference. After shipping off six players in three different trades, it’s once again clear that LeBron James has the inside track toward the 2018 NBA Finals.

The Golden State Warriors, of course, have the best betting odds to win this year’s NBA title. There is a sizeable gap between the defending champions and the Houston Rockets, who have the second-best odds, but Cleveland isn’t far behind as the third favorite. The Cavs’ odds are twice as good as the No.1 seed Boston Celtics' odds.

Cleveland traded away both players that they acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade, sending Isaiah Thomas to the Los Angeles Lakers and Jae Crowder to the Utah Jazz. Not only was the team worse with both players on the court, but they seemed to be the source of some discord in the locker room.

Veterans Dwyane Wade, Channing Frye, Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert are also gone. They’ve been replaced by Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson and George Hill.

The Cavaliers looked old and slow for much of the season. Despite James putting up MVP-like numbers on most nights, Cleveland didn’t have the athleticism or the defense to keep pace with the league’s best teams. That could change with the addition of three players that are 25 years old and a veteran that remains a versatile defender.

James is now surrounded with capable three-point shooters, which could be the difference in important playoff games. Hill leads all NBA players by shooting 45.3 percent from behind the arc, and Hood connects on 38.9 percent of the 6.7 threes he averages per game.

Most importantly, the Cavs hope the trades can improve their defense. Cleveland ranks second-to-last in defensive efficiency, and the numbers say Thomas was performing like one of the worst defenders the league has ever seen.

Boston has risen to the top of the East with the NBA’s No.1 defense. The addition of Irving has changed the dynamic of the team, giving them a better chance to upset the Cavs this season, though their offense struggles when the guard isn’t scoring. The Celtics didn’t make a trade Thursday amid rumors that they were pursuing Memphis’ Tyreke Evans.

Cleveland defeated Boston in five games in last year's Eastern Conference Finals. James has reached the NBA Finals in seven straight seasons.

LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers leaves the floor after a 125-114 loss to the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena on Jan. 30, 2018 in Detroit. Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images