Over the course of the past few months, the roster of the Cleveland Cavaliers has been heavily revamped, with the addition of both LeBron James and Kevin Love being the most eye-catching of the changes.
Both James and Love are prolific when it comes to putting up three-point shots, which should blend well with much of the roster that’s been imported over the summer. Most of, if not all, the other newcomers also have made their mark from long range, a fact that deserves a closer look when attempting to assess how this team will do in 2014-15.
The players who are expected to make up the Opening Night roster collectively launched over 2,000 three-point attempts during NBA play last season. Should they match (or go above) those numbers this year, it would put them in pretty rare territory: since the three pointer was adopted prior to the 1979-80 season, just 23 teams have broken the threshold of 2,000 attempts for a season.
In truth, the milestone number has become much more common within the past few years, with seven teams reaching it just last year, and 12 since James left for Miami in 2010. Five of those 12 squads (including three last year) ended up winning at least 50 games on the season, a number that, given the hype, would likely be considered a disappointment by both the Cavaliers and their fans.
The three best teams from the “2000 Club” have been: the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns, who won 62 games and captured the Pacific Division before being knocked out in the Western Conference finals by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs; and the back-to-back efforts of the Orlando Magic in 2008-09 and 2009-10 that saw then-coach Stan Van Gundy lead the team to 59 victories each season. In that first year, they knocked out the James-led Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.
None of those other teams that reached 50 wins found any greater glory, with just one team, the 2005-06 Suns, reaching the conference finals. The remaining six were split between getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs and dropping the conference semifinals.
On the other end of the spectrum, there have been seven teams that failed to reach the .500 mark for the year, three of them (Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers) coming just last year.
None of the previous 35 Cavalier teams that have played under the three-point rule have ever reached such lofty numbers.
However, fans can calm their fears that the lackluster numbers of the teams above seemingly doom Cleveland to another year of also-ran status. That’s because two of the top three highest totals in this select category took place during the final two seasons of James’ first tenure with the team—when they won 66 and 61 games, respectively.
Ironically, the other highest total took place last season, when a disappointing contingent under former head coach Mike Brown managed a poor 33-49 campaign. Of course, the difference between that team and the current one is night and day.
In short, while the Cavaliers have a bullseye clearly marked on their back beginning on October 30, they offer a veteran unit that will be able to regularly contribute from long distance. Such a combination of skills very well might make the difference in close contests, as well as when the pressure really throttles up come playoff time.