Last year's record? 61-21, lost in the second round.
Projected record, as predicted three months ago in time to publish in Yahoo! Sports' NBA Preview Magazine? 12-70
Why I think that sounds about right?
Because I think, at some point, Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers will start to get it.
I'll think they'll understand that, as narcissistic and unseemly as LeBron James was for years, and as distasteful as his performance (in spite of his production) was in the playoffs last season, they continually messed up their chances at putting a championship-level supporting cast around him. Good effort, but it just didn't work out. And, as a result, I think that they'll finally come to their senses, treat their fans with respect and stop pretending this roster (as presently constructed) has any future in this league.
Why I think I might be terribly, terribly wrong?
Because I'm expecting the Cleveland Cavaliers to act like a professional organization.
I'm not trying to bash anyone on this team, or on the floor. I feel terribly for their fans. I had to watch Michael Jordan walk away, twice, from my favorite team, and it's no fun.
But trying to forge on and tossing out ridiculous guarantees about being able to secure a championship before the Heat do, is just the height of absurdity. And while some Cavalier fans want to read in some synergy regarding my win/loss guess with what I expect Miami's record to be (seriously, forget Miami), or think it as some shot at publicity (because, yeah, I'm a major attention hound), the point is that this team is going nowhere. There are nice players, to be sure, but you win with superstars in this league. This team may have former All-Stars, but it doesn't even have a star.
Which is why my win/loss prediction is too optimistic. Not in terms of total wins, but in terms of what I expect from the Cavaliers. Because 28-54 is not a good thing. Twelve and 70 is a good thing, because it means they'll have traded Mo and Antawn for expiring contracts and draft picks and prospects. Twenty-eight and 54, though it brings 16 more wins to northern Ohio, doesn't do anything but hold off the inevitable. And at some point the Cavaliers and their fans, are going to have to realize that. The dream is over. What can I say?
Dan Devine's Corner Three
Cavs coach Byron Scott wants his team to play the same up-tempo brand of basketball that he employed a decade ago with his get-out-and-run New Jersey Nets, a major stylistic break from the plodding Mike Brown offense that had Cleveland playing at the league's fifth-slowest pace in each of the last three years, according to Basketball-Reference. (I've got major doubts about the ability of the Mo Williams-Ramon Sessions point-guard duo to provide a reasonable facsimile of 2001-2004 Jason Kidd(notes), but hey, a system's a system.) For Scott's charges to play fast, though, they're going to have to crank up the heat on the defensive end, get stops and, perhaps more importantly, force turnovers to allow their guards to push the ball.
But while last season's Cavs allowed the sixth-fewest points per game and seventh-fewest points per 100 possessions in the NBA, the numbers say they weren't quite so hot at forcing opponents to cough up the rock. According to Hoopdata, Cleveland had the league's sixth-worst opponent turnover rate (OTOR) -- the percentage of defensive possessions which end with the other team turning the ball over -- in the league last season, and averaged a middling 14.4 "defensive plays" -- a stat that combines steals, blocks and charges -- per 100 possessions, tying them for 15th in the NBA, right in the middle of the pack.
To be fair, the Cavs' predilection toward slow-down half-court battles and holding opponents to low field-goal percentages offers some explanation for the low turnover numbers. But the Charlotte Bobcats and Boston Celtics -- a pair of similarly elite defensive squads that also played at a snail's pace and ranked in the top 10 in opponents' field-goal percentage last season -- both notched top-four finishes in OTOR and defensive plays per-100, so "slow and good" doesn't necessarily preclude "forcing mistakes."
Obviously, Cleveland's going to miss LeBron in every facet of the game, but given Scott's stated stylistic preference, this could be one of the more crucial. The King was a full-fledged lockdown weapon on the wing, leading the team by averaging 2.71 defensive plays per game last season and keying a number of fast-break opportunities. For the Cavs to ignite their transition game this year, they'll need perimeter defenders Anthony Parker(notes) (1.42 defensive plays per game last season), Jamario Moon(notes) (1.16) and Daniel Gibson(notes) (0.73, although Scott's bullish on Boobie's potential as a stopper) to take a major step up and make life uncomfortable for opposing scorers.
If you're sitting courtside, you might want to cool it with the Sideshow Bob jokes this year. Dude's hanging by a very thin thread.
Eighty seconds of LeBron James getting dunked on
I realize it's not much, Clevelanders and Clevelandians, but we give what we can, and hey, cold comfort is comfort all the same. May visions of a spring-loaded Jamario Moon catching Bron-Bron dance in your heads.
BONUS! FOUR-POINT PLAY! LJ STATUS!
Mark Price and Soul Asylum were amazing: A three-minute reminder
Sometimes when you dig through the crates, the crates reward you, and when they do, it's your obligation to share your bounty with the masses.
As such, I present to you a three-minute highlight package, yoinked from the 1994 video cassette "NBA Superstars 3," celebrating Cavs great Mark Price that features Soul Asylum's "Black Gold," a mid-tempo alt-rock track about not liking war. Or, as I like to call it, "The Most Obvious, Completely Natural and Not At All Weird Marriage of Sports and Music Ever."
It's pretty hard to single out one favorite element of a video that includes bounce passes through defenders' legs, Dave Pirner kicking hay and some of the most awkward-looking basketball ever played on a soundstage, but I'd like to extend my sincere gratitude to the editor who thought it would be a good idea to include a clip of Mark Price committing an offensive foul against the New Jersey Nets at the 2:15 mark. It was an unexpected hilarity cherry that topped this laugh dream sundae.