Cavaliers Offseason: Statistical projection on ESPN sees large improvement


Bradford Doolittle of ESPN used the ATH statistical model to produce projections for the NBA next season. The Cavaliers' result is surprising.

Today has been a slow free agency day early on, so we saw this and figured it was worth bringing to your attention.

ESPN's Bradford Doolittle did a statistical projection of the Eastern Conference, using his ATH projection model. The ATH projection model is derived from height adjusted measurements of rebounding rate, block rate, steal rate, offensive rating, and a bunch of other statistics used to measure applied athleticism. In my opinion, this may slightly overrate the Cavaliers as a young, athletic, rebounding team, but it's still worth discussing because of the marked improvement projected. It also does not take into account free agency, which means that as a team keeping its core together, the Cavs may come out slightly better than expected.

Here is what Doolittle sees as their plan of action:

I'd be surprised if a healthy Cleveland roster doesn't take a big step forward in 2013-14. It starts with Kyrie Irving, who needs to prove he can last a full season. A __-win season would be huge for the Cavaliers. That level of success, combined with the development of young stars Irving, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller would make a particular Ohio-born elite 2014 free agent take notice.

I've purposely left the win total out of this quote early just to discuss his actual thoughts on the team, and I'm especially leaving out the part referencing LeBron James because I don't want to open that can of worms yet. He's right about Irving needing to stay healthy, that's pretty obvious. The biggest thing to note here though is that there is reason to expect massive internal development it seems. The Cavaliers' franchise right now -- without a trade -- is pinned to the hopes of these four guys outside of Irving becoming major contributors. The fact that this system sees that occurring is reason for optimism even if Chris Grant can't bring another star to Cleveland.

I think it'd be a mistake to move veteran center Anderson Varejao, who, if he's healthy, is forecast to finish as Cleveland's second-most-valuable performer after Irving.

He also sees Varejao as a big enough performer to this team that, despite the obvious injury risk, shouldn't be traded. When healthy, Varejao is obviously one of the most productive rebounding big men in the league, along with an active one that uses all kinds of energy and athleticism on the court. This ATH rating may actually slightly overrate him due to the insanely high rebounding rate (that has been proven to be nearly replaced by Thompson) and extremely high steal rate for a big man, but I like that someone doesn't just consider him a throw-away or a bonus.

So Doolittle's projection for the Cavaliers is this:

Current projection: 46-36 (11th) | Playoff/Title odds: 98%/0.9%

Yeah that's way higher than you anticipated, right? Forget the 46 wins for a second and look at the 98% playoff odds! That's insane for a team that hasn't won 46 games in the past two seasons combined, right? This pretty much just goes to show the massive improvement expected by this system of the players on their team right now.

Doolittle then mentions the power move of all power moves that would see the Cavaliers take the next step in his mind. And ladies and gentleman, Karl Welzein can't even top this one on the 4th of July in an Applebees parking lot.

Power move: Wait it out, get better, bring LeBron home.

Okay, so it's not something Cavalier fans should try to expect or look forward to. But he's right that it would be awesome.

So what do you guys think of this projection? Too high? Too low? Is the ATH system drunk already for the 4th tomorrow? I'm excited to see the reactions here.

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