LeBron James decided to take his talents back to Cleveland and make his own Big Three with the Cavaliers, but so far, it hasn’t been what everyone expected.
The Cavs are 19-20 and losers of six straight, putting their title hopes all but out of reach.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 15, 2015
It gets worse: if history is any guide, the Cavaliers are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs entirely. According to Sports Club Stats, Cleveland has a 91 percent chance of seeing postseason play, however, that starts to drop precipitously the closer they get to a 36-win season.
And that 36-win mark is the average win total of teams since 2004-05 who have won fewer than half their games at the 40-game mark.
So where does Cleveland end up from here? We can make an educated guess by using their “true talent” ability to win games, which is easily figured out:
[W]hen you want to regress an NBA team’s W-L record to the mean, at any point during the season, take twelve games of .500 ball (6 wins, 6 losses), and add them to the actual record. This will give you the best estimate of the team’s “true” winning percentage talent going forward.
That would indicate the Cavaliers can be reasonably expected to win 49 percent of their games going forward, or end the season with a 40-42 record. That would all but secure a playoff berth (99.8 percent), however, based on previous NBA seasons, even that could be optimistic.
Since 2004-05, there have been 15 teams with a 19-21 record after the season’s first 40 games, but just seven have hit 40 wins for the season:
- 2004-05 Philadelphia 76ers, 43 wins
- 2005-06 Washington Wizards ,42 wins
- 2006-07 Golden State Warriors, 42 wins
- 2006-07 Los angeles Clippers, 40 wins
- 2010-11 Phoenix Suns, 40 wins
- 2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies, 46 wins
Just two of those, the 2004-05 76ers (42.9 percent) and 2005-06 Wizards (43.7 percent), shot worse than Cleveland has from the field (44.8 percent) during the first 40 games.
Are the odds in the Cavs’ favor to make the playoffs? Sure, especially playing in the Eastern Conference. Should it surprise anyone if they falter down the stretch? Not even a little bit.