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ESPN projects Cavs to finish atop the East

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The Cavs remain the favorites to dominate the Eastern Conference next season.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to remain on top of the Eastern Conference next season, at least according to a recent projection from ESPN.

In ESPN’s forecast, the Cavs will again top the Eastern Conference. Specifically, the Cavs are projected to win 57 games. Here’s ESPN’s bit on the Cavs:

The Cavaliers cruised to 57 wins last season and will face an even lighter challenge in the East this season, according to our forecast. While free agent LeBron James is expected to return, J.R. Smith could still sign elsewhere this summer. Smith led the Cavaliers with 204 3-pointers last season, 46 more than anyone else on the roster.

This is about on par with the general perception of the Cavs. LeBron will return and while Smith could go elsewhere, it seems less and less likely as the summer drags on. With the roster that won a title largely returning, on top is about where the Cavs should be.

What’s more interesting is where the rest of the East fell. The Celtics and Raptors tied for second. Both could challenge Cleveland, but neither team has had success against the Cavs during the past few seasons. Everything considered, it wouldn’t be the most shocking outcome if the Cavs simply rolled through the East next season.