Suddenly last season’s 66-win Cavs team is looking less like evolution and more like an aberration.
Thursday night’s 86-85 home loss to the Chicago Bulls has left the Cavs at 3-3. Relax, say the optimists, it’s still early. The team has a lot of new faces and needs time to figure itself out. But what if the new pieces have set the Cavs back?
Since LeBron James joined the team the Cavs have shown steady improvement. During his 2003-04 rookie campaign they won just 35 games. The team jumped to an above-.500 mark at 42-40 the next season. They were out of the playoffs that time, just barely missing, but from there they made the leap — 50 wins in 2005-06, 50 more in ’06-07 with an NBA Finals appearance thrown in. They regressed to 45 wins in 2007-08, but made the leap to the elite with an NBA best 66-16 mark last season.Or so they thought.The Cavs are now back to looking like they did during LeBron’s first five seasons. Average record? 44-38. And at 3-3 with two home losses already this season after losing only two last season, the Cavs might be fortunate just to get there.
Maybe you believe it’s a long season and the Cavs have plenty of time to remember they won the most games in the NBA last year. Maybe you don’t. Either way, believe this — the Cavs have already lost to the Bulls and Raptors this season. Last season they went 6-1 against those two teams. They have already lost two home games. Last season they went 39-2 at home. The Cavs are 21st in scoring so far this season. Last season they averaged five points more per season and were 13th. (No chalupa for you!)
Yes, we have LeBron. Optimism abounds. But don’t forget that having LeBron has meant about 44 wins a season. So far, this year’s team isn’t looking any different. And that’s the real disappointment.