Cleveland Cavaliers: Month-by-Month Record Predictions for 2017-18 Season
As Jason Lloyd of The Athletic noted, the Cavaliers only play 13 back-to-backs all season, with just three involving a time-zone change. In 2016-17, Cleveland played an NBA-high 18 back-to-backs, crossing zones nine times.
While the regular season means little to a Cleveland team playing in a watered-down Eastern Conference, we should see an improvement over the 51 wins they posted a year ago. This is a team that boasts far more depth and carries plenty of guys seeking redemption or a juicy new contract next summer.
Here's what to expect from the Cavs between now and April, as they look to lock down the No. 1 seed for just the second time in the four years since LeBron James returned home.
Cleveland's 102-99 win over the Boston Celtics marked the fourth win in the last five home openers, and it likely represented its toughest opponent all month.
After the Cavs travel to Milwaukee on Friday, it's tough to dream up an easier end to October.
Cleveland finishes with the Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, New Orleans Pelicans and New York Knicks. None of these teams should make the postseason, with Chicago and Brooklyn likely to end up among the NBA's worst overall teams.
The Cavs already passed test No. 1 and get two days off before playing their only other real challenge in Milwaukee. Even with all the new bodies getting used to playing with each other and the three back-to-backs, there's no reason why the Cavaliers shouldn't sweep October. It's that easy.
October Record: 7-0
Season Record: 7-0
November looks to be kind to the Cavs, with 15 games neatly spread out and a pair of home games the day before and after Thanksgiving.
Like October, there are plenty of awful opponents to feast on.
Cleveland faces the rebuilding Atlanta Hawks twice, along with the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers. Of its 13 different opponents, only two (Rockets, Wizards) are considered locks to reach the postseason.
LeBron James will get to do battle with close friend Chris Paul on his new Rockets team for the first time, a matchup that's guaranteed to feature a few dozen highlight plays and absolutely no defense.
The most interesting contest will be with the Wizards, likely one of the top teams once again in the East this season. John Wall and Bradley Beal should love matching up with Cleveland's Derrick Rose-Dwyane Wade backcourt, while James and Otto Porter make for a fun cross-duel as well.
With their record perfect no longer, Cleveland should have cemented itself at the top of the conference by now.
November Record: 12-3
Season Record: 19-3
For the third straight season, the Warriors and Cavs will meet on Christmas Day.
Cleveland won the meeting last year, a glimmer of hope before dropping five of the next six meetings with the eventual NBA champions.
The rest of the month is by far the toughest of the young season, with seven of the 14 games coming against the superior Western Conference. Golden State is the easy headline here, but games against the Memphis Grizzlies, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz (twice) make this more difficult than previous months.
Lonzo Ball and the Lakers make their first appearance in Cleveland, as do fellow rookie De'Aaron Fox and the maybe-not-as-terrible-as-we-may-think Sacramento Kings.
The good news? Some cupcake games still pop up, headlined by the Chicago Bulls (twice), Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers.
December Record: 10-4
Season Record: 29-7
January is going to be fun.
Typically the slowest month of the regular season, there's no shortage of intriguing opponents for Cleveland at the start of 2018. It also happens to be the month All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas is scheduled to make his return from a hip injury.
The Cavs wrap up their season series with the Warriors on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the last time the teams will meet (until June, of course). Cleveland also welcomes the Portland Trail Blazers and new-look Thunder to town for the first time.
A trip to San Antonio may separate LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard in the MVP race, while Thomas could make an emotional return to Boston on Jan. 3.
Overall, this is the most exciting month of matchups for Cleveland. With Thomas likely trying to find his way in the rotation—and so many high-quality foes in the way—expect a sloppy record to start the new year.
January Record: 7-7
Season Record: 36-14
Key Opponents: San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards
February brings a plethora of talented teams from the West, separated by eight whole days off in the middle of the month for All-Star weekend.
Forget the opponents for a minute, who knows what the Cavs will even look like by now. Isaiah Thomas should be back, and there's no way Cleveland doesn't make some sort of deal by the trade deadline. Veterans like Iman Shumpert, Channing Fyre or Kyle Korver could all be packaged with draft incentives to land yet another star, thus delaying chemistry and continuity a little longer.
When the Cavaliers do take the court, they'll be facing the best of the West (minus Golden State), including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies. That's a total of five teams that could make the Western Conference playoffs, all in a span of nine games. Yikes.
If Thomas misses his return to Boston on Jan. 3, the Cavs end their regular-season meetings with the Celtics in Beantown on Feb. 11.
February Record: 6-4
Season Record: 42-20
Key Opponents: Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks
Now things are getting serious.
After trudging through two long, brutal winter months, March brings a return to warmer weather and a softer schedule. Despite facing 16 games (the most in any one month), Cleveland only has to play once on consecutive days.
The longest road trip of the season goes from March 7 through March 17, a span of six games that's highlighted by a pair of star-studded contests at the Staples Center. One can only imagine the amount of fraternizing Lakers brass Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will be attempting with LeBron James just months ahead of his free agency.
Even with this many games, the opponents aren't that intimidating. Cleveland gets contests with the Phoenix Suns (twice) Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers.
Look for the occasional day off for James, Kevin Love and others as the playoffs draw near, surely to the dismay of the league.
March Record: 11-5
Season Record: 53-25
Key Opponents: Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards
With just six games in April before the start of the playoffs, don't be surprised if head coach Tyronn Lue shuts down his stars a week early. There's no way he'll play LeBron James and company in a meaningless final game of the season against the New York Knicks, and Lue may prefer they stay back from the two-game road trip that precedes it as well.
The Wizards and Raptors games bring some interest for seeding, as the two could be battling for second place behind Cleveland.
Could the Cavs put their collective foot on the gas in March and April and push for 60 wins? Sure, but they won't. Once again, this is a veteran group that doesn't necessarily care about seeding, especially if it comes at the risk of the health of players.
Cleveland will see a nice increase from its 51-win campaign a year ago. Overall, 56 wins should be enough for first place in the East and on the fast track to a fourth straight Finals appearance.
April Record: 3-3
Final Season Record: 56-26