The Cleveland Cavaliers Will Surprisingly Win the East This Season … And Face the Warriors in the Finals Again, According to an Interesting Metric

Can they go from being a laughing stock to reaching the NBA Finals … again?

The Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the worst teams in the NBA each of the last three seasons, missing the playoffs and going a combined 60-159. Their play drew comparisons to how they performed after LeBron James left Cleveland the first time, as they were at the bottom of the league in four consecutive seasons.

However, the Cavs have surprised everyone this year by becoming a contender in the Eastern Conference again … and without LeBron.

In fact, an interesting metric says Cleveland has the best chance to reach the Finals out of the East this season, where the Cavaliers would then face a familiar foe: the Golden State Warriors.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have become one of the top teams in the East again

After three years of tanking for lottery picks, the Cleveland Cavaliers have become one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference again.

Behind point guard Darius Garland’s historic play and star big men Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, the Cavs have began the year 26-18 and are just 2.5 games out of first place.

What’s most remarkable about their success, though, is the adversity they have had to overcome. Cleveland lost its leading scorer from the last two years, Collin Sexton, to a season-ending knee injury in November. It then saw backup guard Ricky Rubio, who had been a revelation for them, also go down for the year with a knee injury.

That’s not to mention that COVID-19 had impacted the Cavs more than any other team as of Jan. 4, according to ESPN.

But somehow, despite it all — in addition to them having the fourth-toughest schedule in the league so far (H/T ESPN) — the Cavaliers have still won more than they have lost and are contending for a top spot in the East.

A metric even thinks they can even win the conference crown.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have the best chance to win the Eastern Conference, according to a specific metric

Cleveland Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley during a game against the Trail Blazers in 2022. The Cavaliers are projected to face the Warriors in the Finals this year.
Evan Mobley of the Cleveland Cavaliers dribbles the ball during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 7, 2022. | Soobum Im/Getty Images

Basketball Reference has a vast amount of statistics at its disposal. From player averages to an all-time list of buzzer-beaters, it essentially has everything.

It then uses all its resources to put together a Playoff Probabilities Report, where it has projected end-of-the-season standings. It bases them “on 10,000 simulations of the remainder of season, including the play-in round.”

Considering how the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing right now and the fact they have a more manageable schedule in the second half compared to the first half, Basketball Reference’s report projects that they will finish No. 1 in the East with close to 51 wins. It also says they have a 33.5% chance to win the conference and a 13.6% chance to win the Finals. The Miami Heat have the second-best odds to win the East at 20.8%.

So, which team has the best chance to face them in the Finals? The Warriors are first in the West with 34.9% odds, while the Suns are No. 2 at 27.9%.

The Cavs reaching the Finals might be hard to fathom, considering how awful they were the last three years. But they have been tremendous when healthy, as they are 21-8 when their “Big Three” of Garland, Mobley, and Allen play together.

So, while the report may seem outrageous, it’s certainly in the realm of possibility.

Cavaliers-Warriors Part Five would look incredibly different than their first four Finals meetings

We’re still quite a ways away from seeing the fifth chapter of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. But if Basketball Reference’s metric is correct and we see those teams in the championship round this year, the matchup would look significantly different than it did in years past.

Cleveland and Golden State faced off in four straight Finals from 2015 through 2018, and the Cavs had LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love as their stars (although Love and Irving were injured in 2015, and Irving was in Boston in 2018). The only player left from those teams is Love, who is no longer a Big Three caliber talent but a valuable bench player. Instead, Garland, Allen, and Mobley are the ones leading the Cavs.

The Warriors, on the other hand, are relatively the same, as Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are still around. However, Kevin Durant, who played against the Cavs in their last two Finals matchups, is no longer there, and Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole are making up for his production.

All in all, there’s a good chance we won’t get Cavs-Warriors Part Five. But Golden State’s veteran stars against Cleveland’s youngsters would make for an interesting series.

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