Even before a regular season game has been played in the 2014-15 NBA season, most anybody with a slight knowledge of basketball would tell you the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland and Chicago are the best, and then there’s the rest. The rest is filled with up-and-comers, cellar-dwellers, and teams stuck in the indifferent. But until a later date (in Philly's case, 2020) arrives, the now is all about Cleveland and Chicago.
As of this morning, ESPN began releasing it’s annual forecast of their predicted standings for the Eastern Conference at 10 a.m. CT going from first to worst in descending order. Chicago, being the second team to be announced, is predicted to finish second place in the East and compile a win-loss record of 54-28.
Predictions, preseason rankings, or anything grasping at straws (although ESPN’s panel of participants for their predictions display a wide array of opinions, to their credit) should be taken with a grain of salt. Getting too caught up in educated guesses is kind of the point of these types of rankings.
But for Chicago, who won 48 games last season while playing 72 without Derrick Rose only figuring to register six more wins WITH Rose, Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott, and Nikola Mirotic is a little spotty. Whether these prognosticators are under the impression Rose won’t revert to form prior to his injuries, or they’re unsure of how Chicago optimizes its newfound depth, is unclear.
What is clear is that the last time Tom Thibodeau had a healthy Rose for an entire season and depth in the frontcourt like he now can maneuver with, the Bulls won 62 games that season (2010-11). Thibs and Rose have nearly a 70 percent winning percentage together, and Thibs’ has a respectable record of 106-77 without Derrick.
While there may be new parts in Chicago’s system, the system is still the system. Meaning, Thibs has a foundation in place in Chicago and its been solidified and imprinted into the fiber of the organization. Where as you look at Cleveland, who is bringing on a first-year coach and operating under the star system, which as we’ve seen in the past (the Heat’s first regular season as the ‘Big Three’ together, the 2012-13 Los Angles Lakers) may take time to develop continuity.
At the end of the day, Cleveland’s going to be fine and end up having a top three offense in the NBA in terms of efficiency. Once they get clicking on all cylinders, they’ll be able to outscore just about anybody. But Chicago predicted to finish with a win total closer to 50 than 60 isn’t something that should bother you, but just take it as a fallacy.
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