Cavaliers Surprise "Experts"Why would someone predict that the Cleveland Cavaliers will only win 12 games this season? The simple (and correct) answer is that the yahoo who said that is an idiot but there are some deeper issues worth exploring.
The Cavaliers posted the best record in the NBA in 2008-09 (66-16) and 2009-10 (61-21). LeBron James won the regular season MVP in both of those seasons and he clearly had a lot to do with Cleveland's success but an MVP level player is worth between 15 and 25 wins, not 50 wins. If the Cavs had lost James but made no other changes then it would have been reasonable to predict that the Cavs would win 45-50 games in 2010-11. Keep in mind that in both of the previous seasons the Cavs coasted to the finish line because they had already clinched the top playoff seed; otherwise, the Cavs could easily have added to their 2009 and 2010 win totals.
Saying that the Cavs will plummet from the league's elite to flirting with the all-time record for single-season losses is simply not rational--and yet it makes perfect sense from a certain perspective: namely, if you are biased enough to believe (based on "advanced statistics" and/or personal preference) that LeBron James is not just an MVP level player but that he is far superior to Kobe Bryant then it is only natural to suggest that James' departure from Cleveland to team up with Dwyane Wade (another player who the "stat gurus" consistently rate ahead of Bryant) will not only turn the Miami Heat into an unbeatable juggernaut but also instantly transform the Cavs into the equivalent of an expansion team. This is the same kind of "logic" that led some people to declare that if Bryant and James had switched teams the past two seasons James would have carried the Lakers to 70-plus wins while Bryant's Cavs would not have matched the records that they posted with James leading the way; that is just nonsense but I will focus on James and the Heat in an upcoming article.
Many people apparently anticipated using this season as some kind of referendum on James' greatness and on how much the Cavs depended on James but those people have chosen poorly for two reasons. One, anyone who really understands basketball knows that the Cavs' success was not linked solely to James: the Cavs had a deep and well balanced roster that Coach Mike Brown honed into one of the top defensive and rebounding units in the league. Two, in addition to losing James the Cavs also lost their top two centers (Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas), the player who led the team in minutes played during the 2009 playoffs (Delonte West) and Coach Brown. The Cavs are a much different team this season, so whether they win 50 games or 15 does not really "prove" how much or how little the 2009 and 2010 Cavs depended on James to post the league's best regular season record; however, if the main holdovers from last year's team (Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, Anthony Parker, J.J. Hickson and Daniel Gibson) lead the team to the playoffs sans James that will certainly lend credence to what I have consistently said regarding the quality of the Cavs' depth last season.
Despite the fact that former All-Stars Williams and Jamison have missed multiple games due to injuries, the Cavs currently rank eighth in the Eastern Conference, exactly where I predicted that they would finish. Obviously, the season is young and there is no guarantee that the Cavs will maintain that position but it is extremely unlikely that they will finish with anything close to 12 wins; I expect that they will be better in the second half of the season than they are now because their key players will presumably get healthier and the entire roster will become more familiar with Coach Byron Scott's system.
posted by David Friedman @ 12:57 AM