ESPN.com published their predictions yesterday for how each team will finish in the Eastern Conference next season. Their construction of this forecast included a survey of one hundred basketball writers and contributors across a broad spectrum of ESPN affiliated networks. The end result pegged the Cleveland Cavaliers at 33-49 overall, good for a 10th place finish in the Eastern Conference during the 2012-13 season.
In last year’s lockout shortened season, the Cavs finished with a winning percentage of .318 (21-45). That win/loss percentage in an 82-game season would calculate out to a record of approximately 26-56. ESPN is projecting then, that Cavaliers will be seven (7) games better this time around, finishing ahead of five teams instead of only two.
Cleveland closed the book on the 2011-12 campaign with better overall records than only the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats out East. ESPN’s 10th place prediction in 2012-13 includes better year-end win totals than Washington (12) and Charlotte (15) again, along with the Toronto Raptors (11), Detroit Pistons (13) and Orlando Magic (14). Four wins ahead of the Cavaliers in 9th place were the Milwaukee Bucks. Seven games better, and securing the 8th and final playoff spot, were the Atlanta Hawks.
In summary, ESPN is suggesting, generally, that (Kyrie Irving in his 2nd season + Tristan Thompson in his 2nd season) + (Dion Waiters + Tyler Zeller) – (Antawn Jamison + Anthony Parker) + (CJ Miles) – (Maybe Ramon Sessions) = 7 more wins. A statement I can’t really argue with too much. I’m not going to make my win total prediction until the end of training camp, but right now I’d have to admit this sounds pretty fair.
I hope the Cavaliers are a team that competes for a playoff spot this season. I think a 10th place finish would indicate the fact that they did that. In the very least, they would be in the race for a good portion of the year, which I think is important. It also suggests that it’s not the craziest thing ever to think the Cavaliers could end up with the 8th seed. Seven more wins (to match the Hawks) than was expected – certainly not the unthinkable leap of Charlotte or Orlando getting in. But looking at the eight projected playoff teams on this list, as well as the Bucks who aren’t, playoff basketball in Cleveland will be a challenge.
I think the Brooklyn Nets are extremely over-rated at 5th on this list. After that though, these six teams that ESPN has in the playoffs are definitely playoff teams: Heat, Celtics, Pacers, Bulls, Sixers & Knicks. After that, BK and ATL certainly would be the next two favorites to get in. Then Milwaukee and Cleveland. For right now, I’ll take that.