Posted by Neil Paine on October 26, 2010
Welcome to our 2010-11 NBA Blogosphere Previews, in which we contact the finest team bloggers on the web and ask them to contribute their thoughts on the squad they cover. What follows is their take, along with the team's depth chart (courtesy of ESPN.com), projected 2011 stats via our Simple Projection System, and polls where you get to have your say. Enjoy!
Coach: Byron Scott
Record: 61-21, Finished 1st in NBA Central Division
SRS: 6.17 (2nd of 30) ▪ Pace: 91.4 (25th of 30)
Off Rtg: 111.2 (6th of 30) ▪ Def Rtg: 104.1 (7th of 30)
Expected W-L: 59-23 (2nd of 30)
2011 Depth Chart (with 2010-11 projected per-36 minute stats ... yellow = newcomer)
2010-11 Blogger Outlook by Neil Paine, Basketball-Reference.com
Life after LeBron James was the last notion Cavaliers fans wanted to entertain on July 7th, but now it's Opening Day and Cleveland must learn to live with their new reality. So what do we expect from this orphaned team? In the time leading up to James' "Decision", I wrote about the varying expectations for the post-LeBron Cavs, and they all basically came down to one thing: how much do you think LeBron added to Cleveland's win total these past few seasons?
Envision the Cavs of 2009-2010 as a pie made up of 60 or so wins. How big a slice of that pie belonged to LeBron? Well, if you believe Win Shares, James' slice was about 20 wins. Without him, and with slightly above-average players like Antawn Jamison & Jamario Moon taking his place, Cleveland could expect to lose about 15 wins at the most, which would leave roughly 45 wins left in their pie (not coincidentally, this is basically what the WS projections say will happen this season).
But maybe LeBron's slice was actually bigger than 20 wins. Maybe it was more like 30 wins, in which case a James-free Cavs squad would win only 35 games in 2011, a fate the plus/minus numbers seem to predict. With a cast of characters largely built to compliment an absent centerpiece, it's not hard to imagine that outcome -- even though history tells us Cleveland may be able to at least cobble together a surprisingly decent defense without James.
That said, I've also seen some projections for Cleveland which dive well below even 25 wins (the most glaring example: Kelly Dwyer, a writer whose work I typically respect, predicted a paltry 12 wins for the Cavs in Yahoo's 2011 preview magazine). I find these doomsday predictions to be incredibly unrealistic. In order for something like 12 wins to be true, LeBron James' slice of the Cavaliers' pie last season would have to have been worth 50 wins! LeBron James is a future Hall of Famer, but does anyone really think his presence alone is worth 50 wins? If so, why don't we just pencil the Heat in to go 82-0 right now?
In other words, you can't have it both ways. If the Cavaliers are truly going to win fewer than 35-40 games, then the Heat must be considered prohibitive favorites to set a new single-season win record in 2011. And if you're not quite willing to crown the Heat as the best team of all time yet, then consider that the loss of LeBron James, as great as he is, may not be as catastrophic to Cleveland as you've been led to believe.