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ESPN released its summer forecast this week and not surprisingly, isn’t real keen on the Cavaliers.
In fact, the website predicted LeBron James’ departure for the Los Angeles Lakers will basically turn the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions to basketball mush.
More specifically, ESPN has the Cavs tabbed to finish 11th in the East and miss the playoffs.
“We see the LeBron Effect out West, with the Lakers projected to vault to a playoff team this season,” ESPN wrote. “Well, here’s the other side of the coin: The Cavaliers dropped from a projected 52 wins last season to 31 this year. Kevin Love faces an uphill battle to keep the Cavaliers in contention.”
Along with Love, the Cavs return key rotation players such as Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. (And Rodney Hood, assuming he re-signs.)
Younger players such as rookie Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, Sam Dekker and David Nwaba also figure to play a role under coach Tyronn Lue. And hey, Channing Frye is back.
But none of that matters to ESPN — which ranked the Cavs to finish behind the likes of the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets and even Brooklyn Nets, the Cavs’ veteran lineup and recent winning experience be darned.
ESPN projected the Cavs will finish 31-51, well behind predicted Eastern champion Boston, with the Celtics’ projected to finish at 58-24.
According to ESPN, the top five in the East are the Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.
In the West, it’s the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, also in that order.
The website selected James and the Lakers to finish 46-36 and in sixth in the West. But the jury is still very much out on that.
Either way, Lue and the Cavs have said they believe that a share-the-wealth system centered on Love will result in a winning environment. They believe, even if ESPN clearly does not.