CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers' rise from the ashes to respectability has been a great story so far.
But a deep playoff run? Now, that's asking a bit much... right?
Well, not according to one of the most reputable statistical sites out there. According to Basketball Reference, the Cavs are not only a legit contender, but currently have the best odds of any team to win the Eastern Conference and reach the 2022 NBA Finals.
The publication released its latest Playoff Probabilities Report Thursday, using 10,000 simulations to predict the final records for each of the league's 30 teams as well as the results of the postseason. The numbers currently show Cleveland finishing third in the east with a 48-34 record (they're 14-12 at the ) with a 93.6% chance to just make the playoffs, while their odds of winning the entire conference stand at 19.5%.
That's almost 3% higher than the projected one-seed Chicago Bulls and nearly 7% clear of the Milwaukee Bucks, the defending NBA champions. While its certainly eye-opening for a team most had pegged for the bottom of the standing when the season began, the simulations still don't have the Cavaliers as a heavy favorite, as five other teams in the East have at least a 10% chance of making it to the Finals.
The Cavs have won five Eastern Conference championships in their history, including a run of four straight from 2015-18 that included an NBA title. Should they make it back for a sixth time this season, Basketball Reference believes their Finals opponent would likely be a familiar one: The Golden State Warriors, whom they battled in each of those latter four years.
The four-time NBA champion Warriors own the NBA's best record at 21-4, and the prognosticators put their final record at 63-19. Their current odds of just making the Finals are a staggering 59.6%, while their chances of winning the whole thing stand at 52.0%. The Cavaliers' odds of being champions are only 4.4%, fourth overall behind Western Conference foes Golden State, the Phoenix Suns (19.7%), and the Utah Jazz (7.4%).
Cleveland has not even had a winning record since that last Finals berth in 2018, LeBron James' final year with the team. The last time the Cavs even made the playoffs without the Akron native's services was 1998, when Mike Fratello's squad lost in the first round to the Indiana Pacers.