ESPN.com projects Cleveland Cavaliers to miss playoffs in Eastern Conference

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Where does ESPN.com think the Cavaliers will finish in the Eastern Conference this year?

ESPN has been releasing their team by team previews each day this month based on where the SCHOENE system projects the teams will finish. They wrapped up the teams that are projected to finish in the playoffs and are now starting to reveal the teams that missed the cut. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers,the system projects them to finish at 9th in the Eastern Conference (Insider Only). They have them finishing in a three way tie, at 37-45, with the 7th seed New York Knicks and the 8th seed Toronto Raptors. How they figure out which team gets the tiebreaker in the system was not clarified.

You guys should also see ESPN's 5-on-5 discussing the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers, featuring Fear The Sword's own Conrad Kaczmarek.

For those unfamiliar with what SCHOENE is here is a breakdown of the methodology behind it.

I found it unfortunate that the entire overview section of the team was dedicated to a former Cavaliers player, and what impact the performance of team this season may have on his decision making. Just seems unnecessary to note when discussing the team this season. But if you want that kind of coverage, I'm sure there will be roughly 100 articles on that subject written over the coming months. But for now I'll just avoid talking about the subject.

Looking back on last season:

In recapping the 2012-2013 Cavaliers they came up with a few interesting observations. In regards to Dion Waiters they had this to say:

Dion Waiters' rookie season created as many questions as it did answers for those who thought Cleveland overreached by taking him high in the 2012 lottery. Waiters created a high volume of offense but didn't adapt to playing off the ball as well as you'd like. An offense, even one with Irving, can accommodate two players at their best with the ball in their hands. That's why Dwyane Wade and you-know-who have been able to coexist so well in Miami.

This isn't exactly news for Cavs fans. The development of the pairing of Irving and Waiters, and their ability to move without the ball in their hands, has been one of the main things people have focused on so far through training camp and the preseason. Aside from his defensive game, off ball movement is one of the most important things Dion must work on in order for the pairing with Irving to work at an elite level.

One thing that stood out was when they brought up that the Cavaliers improved their offensive efficiency from 27th to 22nd last season. The reason for this was caused by an improvement from 24th to 7th in the league in turnover percentage. They cited Irving's improved ability to take care of the ball paired with the strong ball control of Waiters. This was very surprising to me, as I have long felt taking care of the ball is something that Irving needs to improve upon in order to reach the next level.

They also had this to say about Tristan Thompson's play last season:

Improved markedly during his second season as a featured rebounder and a promising shot-blocker. While Thompson might never develop the offensive arsenal to be a big-three-type player, if his overall defensive impact matches that of his work on the boards, he's got the makings of an elite role player.

It's really nice to see all the attention and appreciation Thompson has been getting for his improved play. While I've never felt that he would end up being an all star player there is no shame in him developing into an elite role player/ team leader. Overall it seemed that they had a pretty good feel for last years team. They acknowledged that Gee and Zeller were both asked to do too much last season, as well as the career year that the Cavs got out of CJ Miles. But as we well know, the lack of depth and injuries to the Cavaliers season ended up dooming last years team.

Offseason:

Nothing earth-shattering was said about Bennett. Right now, there are far more questions than answers when it comes to his game. He's a rare combination of skills and physical gifts with questions about his drive and ability to stay in shape. That being said it was acknowledge that he has big time potential and could emerge as the star of this draft. I'm personally glad that we are able to bring him along slow and that he will need to earn his minutes behind Tristan Thompson. With Thompson's work ethic it is safe to assume nothing is going to be handed to Anthony Bennett.  Praise was given to the Cavaliers front office for their other first round selection in this year's draft:

Karasev probably will have to work on his body to stand up defensively in the NBA, but as the No. 19 pick, Cleveland might have gotten a second lottery-caliber talent out of the draft. His role won't likely be a big one this season.

The article also went on to praise Cleveland for it's low risk/ high reward signing of Andrew Bynum, as well as the addition of Jarrett Jack. The feeling seems to be that Jack's veteran presence, toughness, and ability to play either guard position will be a huge asset for the Cavaliers this season. Earl Clark however did not receive the same glowing endorsement as the felt that he is far too unproven as a three point shooter, as well as more of a 4 than a 3. It was suggested that the most productive lineups that the Cavs will feature this season with have Irving, Jack and Waiters on the court at the same time. I don't believe that the offensive payoff will be enough to make up for what they are giving up on defense, it wouldn't shock me to see Mike Brown deploy this combination at times this season.

Outlook for this season:

The first thing that was brought up was the injury concerns for this team. The feeling is that Irving, Bynum, Varejao and Waiters are all far from sure things when it comes to their ability to stay on the court. They acknowledged that if the team can stay healthy it is a potentially deep roster, but with the way SCHOENE calculates how a team will perform, they were deducted wins. The other thing that was brought up was that 37 wins was a very low ball calculation, not only did it assume injuries to our core players, it also was calculated with our defensive ranking to be 23rd in the league. It likely is going to be higher than that with Mike Brown at the helm as he has never coached a team that's finished lower than 14th on defense. So while 37 wins and 9th place may sound discouraging, if you subscribe to the belief that Mike Brown can improve this team on defense and that Irving, Waiters and Varejao can play the majority of the games for the Cavaliers, then you can assume that the team will outperform this projection and finish comfortably in a playoff spot. It's nice that the floor projections for this team are still in the playoff hunt rather than the bottom of the league.

For a closing thought we were given this:

If that happens [combination of health and improved defense I talked about above], because the Cavs can free up cap space to accommodate a max player next summer, you're going to again hear Cleveland mentioned in conjunction with that man from Akron, because a match between the former favorite son and an exciting team on the cusp of contention would just sound so juicy.

Even if Cleveland fans are tired of that old storyline, they should take it as a compliment:

If the possibility of a LeBron return is floated, it's going to be because the Cavs have improved to the point where they might no longer need him.

That scenario would be the best possible outcome for the Cavaliers moving forward in my eyes.

What do you guys think? Do you think that this ranking was fair based on the formula that went into it? Or do you think that it was too harsh/ optimistic?

Also feel free to use the new FTS Mailbag!!! Email mailbagfts@gmail.com with any questions you have about the team, or inquiries about the meaning of life and we will answer them with our signature snarky optimism.

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