The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a season to remember. Rehiring Mike Brown. Signing Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark. Drafting Anthony Bennett #1 overall. Showing a playoffs or bust mentality. Trading Bynum for Luol Deng, after suspending the big man. Trading Clark for Spencer Hawes. Retiring Zydrunas Ilgauskas‘s jersey, and planning it around LeBron James so he could attend. Losing Kyrie Irving to injury, again, as the season winds down. All together it leaves us here on March 24th with 11 games remaining, 7 against teams with a better record then the Cavs, and down 5.5 games in the playoff race in the worst conference ever.
Yet there still is hope even with all of that. The Cavs still could theoretically pull off the 8th spot in the East, in similar late season fashion as the Cleveland Indians pulled out their playoff spot. The worst case scenario to some is actually the best case, a return trip to the NBA Draft Lottery with a decent probability of winning it, or at least moving up. For Cavs fans they have something to watch, they are interesting. That much cannot be disagreed with this season. Now on to the scenarios:
Best Case Scenario
Currently the Cavs sit 5.5 games back of the Atlanta Hawks. The Cavs have 27 wins and the Hawks have 31. The Knicks sit 2.5 games ahead of the Cavs with 29 wins. In fighting for the playoffs we will focus on wins instead of games back as that is the key number, for the lottery Cavs fans are used to following the losses. That means for the Cavs to make the playoffs they must win at least 4 more games then the Hawks (14 games remaining) and at least 2 more games then the Knicks (12 games left). A huge game for the Cavs is the head to head match up with the Hawks on April 4th. Here is a list of the 3 team’s opponents to finish off the season:
The Cavaliers, Hawks and Knicks have some opponents in common which also makes this an interesting fight for the right to get beat in the first round. For the Cavs a reasonable number of wins has to be figured out and then from there we can get an idea of what needs to happen with the other 2 teams. The Cavs could be considered favorites or even in games with the Celtics, Bucks, Pistons X 2, Bobcats, Hawks and Magic. Assuming they win all of those games that adds 7 to their win total. The Cavs have a chance against the Nets X2, especially if their playoff position is set on the last game of the season for the Cavs as well as a fighting chance against the Raptors. The Pacers have been in disarray but still should be able to handle the Cavs. If the Cavs win 1 or 2 of those 4 games that leaves them with 8 or 9 more wins, for a win total of 35 or 36. That means the Cavs need the Hawks to win no more then 4 or 5 and the Knicks to win no more then 6 or 7.
Looking at the Hawks schedule, and their recent play it is possible that they could make it happen. They should be favored or even in games with the Pistons, Celtics, Bucks, 76ers and Bobcats. We are assuming a loss against the Cavs. They will be underdogs against the remainder of their schedule. If the Hawks can lose all of the games they are underdogs and just one of the games against those they are favored or even with, we are looking at your Bobcats, the Hawks would be tied with the Cavs.
The Knicks will be favored or even with the Jazz, Lakers, and Kings. They should put up a good battle with the Raptors and Nets twice and the Wizards once. They should be underdogs against the Warriors, Bulls, Suns, and Heat. Assuming the Wizards beat the 3 teams they should, take 3 of the 5 against the Raptors, Nets and Wizards and lose all of the other they too would be tied with the Cavs.
Best Case Scenario: Cavs win 8 or 9 of their remaining 11, the Hawks only win 4 and the Knicks only win 6 and the teams are tied for the last playoff spot. (Tiebreakers are for a different article)
Worst (Best?) Case Scenario
We will go simpler and quicker through this scenario. The Cavs currently have 44 loses on the season. They will not “catch” the Magic (52 loses), 76ers (55) or Bucks (57) but are only 3 losses behind Boston and Utah for the 3rd best lottery odds. Without Kyrie Irving Anthony Bennett and C.J. Miles, as well as an ailing Luol Deng the Cavs players have been putting in huge minutes. The Cavs will be without Irving and Bennett for at least another week, if not more, and Miles tried to return and couldn’t. The Cavs could easily lose most if not all of their games as the team’s energy and spirit falters as the season reaches its final laps. The Cavs have a number of teams they currently have to “jump” to get to that 4th probability spot but could easily do it. That would leave them with the 4th best chance at the #1 pick and the worst pick that they could have in a top heavy draft is #7, which is highly unlikely. The best odds in the lottery is 25%, second is 19.9, 3rd is 15.6 and 4th is 11.9. The 5th best odds drop to 8.8 and continue to fall all the way down. Since the change in 1994 the 3rd best odds have one the lottery 6 times, and while the 4th best odds have not that range is very important.
Worst (Best) Case Scenario: The Cavs lose enough games to get the 4th best lottery odds and luck into another Top 3 pick in the most loaded draft in recent history. Worst case is they draft 7th and get either a knock down shooter at small forward, like Rodney Hood, or a basket protecting big man.
Which scenario is more realistic to you? Has the Cavs competitive play against high quality teams recently give you any hope? Or does their up and down play confirm to you this team has a long way to go?