Projecting the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers From WhatIfSports.com image

Projecting the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers

We project the Cavaliers' odds against the NBA's best teams

WhatIfSports.com
August 8, 2014

When LeBron James first announced his reunion with the Cleveland Cavaliers via a letter posted on SI.com, he did his best to temper expectations, saying, "I'm not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We're not ready right now. No way." Given the state of the Cavaliers' roster at the time, the statement seemed accurate enough. James significantly bolstered a young squad, but building a championship-caliber team appeared a couple years away.

Just weeks later, the Cavs look remarkably different. Cleveland has an agreement in place with Minnesota to acquire Kevin Love in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a 2015 first-round pick. The Cavaliers have also picked up Mike Miller and James Jones, with possible signings of Shawn Marion and Ray Allen looming. Add in holdovers Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters and the Cavs have suddenly fast-tracked their way to a roster built to contend now.

What can we expect from the 2014-15 Cavaliers? Using our NBA simulation engine and our Dream Team feature, we built the new-look Cavs and played them against the top contenders for the 2015 NBA title: the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

A few notes:

  • When building rosters, we selected the 2013-14 season of each player whenever possible. Exceptions included Brendan Haywood (2012-13), Derrick Rose (2011-12) and Sebastian Telfair (2012-13).
  • For rookies, we substituted comparable players. The Bulls' Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic were represented by 1999-00 Wally Szczerbiak and 2008-09 Ryan Anderson, respectively. Kyle Anderson of the Spurs was substituted with 2003-04 Boris Diaw. The Thunder's Mitch McGary was replaced with 2005-06 David Lee.
  • Marion and Allen were included on the Cavaliers' roster even though their signings have not yet occurred.

First, we played the Cavaliers and Bulls 1,001 times to see if the Cavs' new-look roster could emerge from the Eastern Conference. Check out the results:

Cavaliers vs. Bulls
MatchupWin%Avg. PPGWIS Interactive
2014-15 Cavaliers52.9101.2Simulate Matchup
2014-15 Bulls47.199.8Build your own Dream Team
Top Performers - Cavs: James (21.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.0 APG),
Love (19.1 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 4.4 APG), Irving (15.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 6.5 APG)
Top Performers - Bulls: Rose (18.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 7.4 APG),
Noah (13.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 5.4 APG), Gasol (15.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.3 APG)

Though the Bulls improved with the signing of Pau Gasol and enjoyed a healthy Rose throughout the simulation, the Cavs were able to best them 52.9 percent of the time. The Cavs' 101.2 points per game were the fewest they averaged in our three simulations.

Next, we played the Cavs against the reigning NBA champions:

Cavaliers vs. Spurs
MatchupWin%Avg. PPGWIS Interactive
2014-15 Cavaliers53.0105.7Simulate Matchup
2014-15 Spurs47.0105.3Build your own Dream Team
Top Performers - Cavs: James (21.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.6 APG),
Love (20.0 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 4.6 APG), Irving (17.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 6.9 APG)
Top Performers - Spurs: Duncan (16.3 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 3.4 APG),
Parker (15.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 6.0 APG), Leonard (10.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.9 APG)

The Spurs performed about as well as the Bulls against the Cavaliers, dropping 53 percent of their games to the James-Love-Irving trio. San Antonio scored 5.5 more points per game than the Bulls, but surrendered 4.5 more points.

Finally, we played LeBron and the Cavs in 1,001 games against Kevin Durant and the Thunder:

Cavaliers vs. Thunder
MatchupWin%Avg. PPGWIS Interactive
2014-15 Cavaliers54.1105.6Simulate Matchup
2014-15 Thunder45.9104.8Build your own Dream Team
Top Performers - Cavs: James (21.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 6.2 APG),
Love (20.2 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 4.6 APG), Irving (16.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 6.7 APG)
Top Performers - Thunder: Durant (24.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.0 APG),
Westbrook (19.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 7.6 APG), Ibaka (14.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.2 APG)

Again, Cleveland prevailed by a narrow margin, beating the Thunder in 54.1 percent of games. With three elite players of their own - Durant, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook - lined up directly across from the Cavs' "Big Three," the Thunder would seem uniquely equipped to slow Cleveland down. Not the case, according to the simulation.

All signs point to an open championship window for the Cavaliers. The squad is built to compete with the best teams the NBA has to offer. With any luck, the city of Cleveland's championship drought could soon be at an end.

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Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jwestrich@whatifsports.com.

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