67RIEFNS No. 40: Cavaliers’ dramatic turnaround

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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

For a moment, ignore the names.

Ignore LeBron James. Ignore Kevin Love. Ignore Kyrie Irving.

The Cavaliers are attempting to make a historically quick and dramatic turnaround, a compelling saga regardless of the players involved.

In the last four years, Cleveland has gone 19-63, 21-45, 24-58 and 33-49. That’s hardly of a résumé of a championship favorite and team most consider a lock for the conference finals.

In fact, the Cavaliers would have the worst record ever in the four years leading up to a conference-finals appearance.

Here are the 59 teams that have reached the conference finals following four seasons of combined sub-.500 basketball and this year’s Cleveland:

  • Won championship (gold)
  • Lost Finals (wine)
  • Lost conference – or as they were previously called, division – finals (blue)
  • 2014-15 Cavaliers (black)

source:

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And it’s not just one or two poor season sinking the Cavaliers’ aggregate record. Here are the 11 conference finalists that had losing seasons in each of the four years before their big season, sorted by best winning percentage in that span:

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Only the 1956 St. Louis Hawks – who went 17-49, 27-44, 21-51 and 26-47 in the four years prior – failed to match even Cleveland’s “sterling” 2013-14 33-49 record in the four-year run-up to a conference-finals berth. But the Hawks reached only the conference finals. If the Cavaliers reach the Finals, they’ll set themselves apart historically in this category, too.

We’ve gotten so used to seeing Cleveland in the lottery lately – often winning the No. 1 pick – and teams anywhere near bad for such an extended time rarely advance deep in the playoffs. With the Cavaliers, it seems inevitable.

So much analysis of this team will focus on its stars, and that’s understandable. But also pay attention to its historic arc of progress.