What would a “bold prediction” for the Cavaliers have looked like one year ago?
Would a bold prediction have just been to finish in the .500 ballpark?
A year later and these Cavs are letting us dream.
So let’s get bold.
Bolder than breaking even.
1. No. 3 Seed in the East AND 52 Wins
Prior to the All Star Break, the Cavs were on pace for fifty wins.
Unfortunately, the team caught the injury bug and a team tracking a top three seed slipped to the play-in game.
But why can’t this team do it again?
When healthy, everything clicks.
And all of their major contributors are set to be healthy come the start of next season.
What’s stopping this team from reaching 50 games?
At 52 wins, the Cavs would be almost a lock for a top three seed.
Over the last five seasons, the no. 3 seed in the East finished no higher than 52 wins.
It’s a magic number that would secure the Cavs home court for at least one round of the playoffs.
At the All Star Break this season, the Cavs were 35-22; by season’s end, they finished 44-38.
Would a healthy Cavs team have gone for 15 or 17 wins down that stretch, rather than nine?
This writer thinks so.
2. Win First Playoff Series without LeBron
For most of this century, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been synonymous with LeBron James.
It’s for good reason; the Cavs drafted James first out of his Akron high school and he brought a championship to the city back in 2016.
He’s the native son, but his presence (or lack thereof) has been felt even when James hasn’t donned the red and gold.
That’s because this team hasn’t won a playoff game without LeBron James since the 1990s.
The pre-LeBron years were marked by so-so talent that never demonstrated an ability to keep up with the league’s top teams.
The in-between years were marred by incompetence, the crown jewel being Anthony Bennett’s selection as the top pick in 2013.
But now, something feels different.
The front office, led by President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman, has hit on several draft picks.
In fact, every single player taken after 2018 in the first round by the Cavaliers are still with the club.
Not only that, but most of those guys are now starting.
Cleveland ❤️ pic.twitter.com/268CaBeVJR
— Cavaliers Nation (@WeAreCavsNation) May 13, 2022
Darius Garland took the leap this season.
Evan Mobley looks like a future all-NBA player.
Collin Sexton is a strong offensive piece; Isaac Okoro can hang (sort of) on defense.
And the trades haven’t been too shabby either.
In Allen’s case, maybe even more than “just fine.”
The point is, if things click next season for the Cavaliers and they end up with a top three seed in the East, they should also pick up their first playoff series win in a long time.
At no. 3, the Cavs would have to play the worst non-play-in opponent in the field.
That’s a winnable series for Cleveland.
Look out, folks; we might be watching a non-LeBron Cavs team later than early April.
3. J.B. Bickerstaff Wins Coach of the Year
A few factors go into this prediction.
First, Cleveland would unquestionably need to land a top seed.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 10, 2022
Bickerstaff’s squad would also need to replicate (and build on) its excellent defensive numbers.
But the ingredients are there for Coach Bickerstaff to land Coach of the Year honors next season.
At the very least, if the Cavaliers are excellent all season, he should garner the level of praise that Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins received.
Combine the slight “surprise factor” of a Cavaliers team landing a top seed with the fact that the team is legitimately talented is the recipe that Bickerstaff needs to win the individual award.
Barring a team going on a Phoenix Suns-esque death march through the regular season, Bickerstaff’s name should and will be in the conversation.