By Tuesday, Cleveland Jackson will have finalized all edits and formatting necessary for the release of Cavs Zine 4. The following night, Mike Brown's triumphant return to Quicken Loans Arena will combine with Kyrie Irving's legendary rise to create an avalanche of excitement and intrigue surrounding all that is opening night.
But before we all celebrate Cavsmus in earnest, I wanted to first file a series of official predictions here at StepienRules.com. The first two, highlighted below, include the Cavs predicted win total along with Andrew Bynum's projected stat line for the season. Tomorrow I'll be predicting the Cavs second-leading scorer along with who will make the most starts at small forward this year.
Predicted Win Total for 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers: 43
I've mentioned this prediction in a few different places by now, but for the sake of clarity, I am projecting the Cavaliers to finish with a record of 43-39. This mark will be good enough for a No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and also have a playoff berth clinched with more than one week remaining in the regular season.
For some perspective, the Boston Celtics won 41 games as the No. 7 seed in 2012-13. The Milwaukee Bucks earned a No. 8 seed with 38 wins and the Atlanta Hawks were the No. 6 seed last season with 44.
One of the five teams I expect to finish ahead of Cleveland, no matter how well things break for the Cavaliers, will be in town on opening night. Along with those Brooklyn Nets—who I do expect the Cavs to beat on Wednesday in front of the home crowd—are the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.
If the Cavs stay consistently healthy and each player performs close to the top-end of his individual potential, it's not unreasonable to suggest that the No. 6 seed is attainable. Among the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors, there is no definitive sixth-best team in the East right now.
Over the course of an 82-game season, though, things do happen. It takes time to gel, shooting slumps plague key players at times and injures can occur. Despite those traditional pitfalls, I do believe the Cavaliers are deep enough to guarantee a playoff berth in a conference that could see a few teams tanking hard for Wiggins, Parker and whoever else by the All-Star break.
As the No. 7 seed, with 43 wins, the Cavaliers will have completed a 19-game turnaround from a year ago while potentially lining up against the Miami Heat in Round 1. But pegging the Pacers as the regular-season champs out East and driving down much further than that is prediction for another day.
Predicting Andrew Bynum's Stats: 13.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 55 games
I've been having this recurring dream lately where Andrew Bynum is announced as a starter on opening night. He stunts through the Cavs handshake line while channeling his inner-Brad Daugherty and appears like the All-Star he once was under Mike Brown for the next 48 minutes.
Tweets like this from Sam Amico aren't doing anything to help my condition.
Cavs coach Mike Brown says Andrew Bynum took part in "most of practice," including five-on-five drills today. #NBA— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) October 27, 2013
Despite the growing reason to believe that Bynum could be capable of playing much sooner than people initially suggested, I keep reminding myself to not expect much until after the All-Star break. Regardless of that, however, my optimism continues to build.
Two months ago, I expected Bynum to play in about half of the Cavaliers' 82 games this season. I later nudged that projection forward to 50. Last week, after watching him work out with Coach Potapenko in Cleveland, I considered pushing that number as far out as 60 but I can't quite go there.
Not yet anyway.
For now, I can go as far as predicting 55 games played for Bynum this year.
That's not 55-straight games, obviously, because I do expect him to take scheduled days off throughout the year even if he does remain healthy. He's not likely to play on the second night of a back-to-back, for example, nor will the Cavs training staff expect Bynum to push through signs of obvious pain. But I do believe 55 games is reasonable based on what we know now, with Bynum playing his best and most consistent basketball after the break.
When he's on the court, I am also expecting Bynum to be 70 percent of the All-Star who once averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds under Coach Brown in Los Angeles. That's, in part, how I arrived at averages of 13.1 points and 8.3 rebounds. While those numbers will be significant in determining Cleveland's success this year, expect Bynum to make the most underrated impact the soonest by altering shots at the rim defensively.
The 1.8 blocks I am also predicting for Bynum are just over his career average of 1.6 and just under the 1.9 he averaged during his last season of basketball activity. In terms of minutes, I expect Bynum to match his career average by playing 26 per night throughout those 55 games in Cleveland.
Tuesday Predictions: Cavs Second-Leading Scorer, Starting Small Forward By All-Star Break
Photo Credit: AP / Mark Duncan