Grantland’s Zach Lowe, one of the best basketball writers in the business because of his writing background and analytic bent, wrote his annual NBA power ranking tiers story today. It’s worth your time.
In order, teams that are mentioned first in the Eastern Conference: Miami, Chicago, Indiana, Brooklyn and New York. Those are the top contenders, as many expect. Three playoff spots would remain after those teams. Up next in Lowe’s tiers, he shared the “Eastern Conference Morass” of Atlanta, Washington, Detroit and Milwaukee.
Thus, Lowe mentioned nine times already. After that, his “Eastern Conference Swing Teams” tier was Toronto and Cleveland. Here is how he began his commentary on Mike Brown’s Cavaliers:
No one has any clue with these guys. If they get, say, 120 combined games between Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum, plus the expected development from all their young players, the Cavs could vault right into the no. 6 spot and perhaps even challenge for no. 5. If they get considerably fewer Varejao-Bynum games, they might fail to win even 30 games for the fourth straight year A.L. (After LeBron).
In that context, absolutely, the Cavs are one of the most boom-or-bust potential-laden teams in the NBA. Winning fewer than 35 games, however, would likely be a huge disappointment for owner Dan Gilbert and GM Chris Grant.
As I wrote back in The Diff in late July, the average Eastern Conference No. 8 seed in nine years of the current conference alignment has averaged just 39.7 wins. Perhaps this year, the No. 6-11 crowd is much more competitive than in the past, but usually just about 40 wins puts a team in contention in the weak East.
[Related: 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview]