According to the NBA’s annual general manager survey, the Cleveland Cavaliers are a step behind the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
In the survey (which you can read in full here), the Cavs were picked to finish third in the East by 43% of GMs and fourth by 23%. That puts them ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks, but a step behind the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics (at 53%) and the Bucks (at 43%) took up the vast majoirty of the votes for who would get the one seed in the East. The Miami Heat received the other votes.
This makes sense. The Cavs are good — they had an elite net rating last year and under performed based on their net rating. But they probably are a step behind the Celtics (who have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and added Jrue Holiday) and the Bucks (who have Giannis and added Damian Lillard). They also have to prove their status after how the playoffs went last year before they can be looked at similarly to the teams with shorter title odds.
What’s also interesting about the voting is how congested in the middle of the Eastern Conference is seen by general managers. The Cavs have the highest percentage of votes for the third seed, but it’s not a majority. The 76ers picked up 30% of the vote, the Knicked nabbed 17% and the Heat added 10%. Each of those teams, plus the Atlanta Hawks, also picked votes for who would end up fourth.
The East is going to competitive. The Cavs surely have eyes on pushing for the top of the East and making real noise. But it’s possible that comes down to how they look against the teams projected to be more on their level.