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NBA Power Rankings: Cavaliers Rank 27th At SI.com

The Cleveland Cavaliers finished dead last in the Eastern Conference with 19 wins a season ago. While it is possible that Cleveland will not eclipse that mark this season, it might have more to do with the 66-game schedule (rather than the usual 82 games) than because the Cavaliers are regressing.

Cleveland is projected to at least take baby steps forward, ranking 27th in the season's first NBA Power Rankings by Britt Robson of SI.com.

No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving is projected to be the goods at point guard, a place for the post-LeBron Cavs to plant their flag. Otherwise, if last season is any indication, Byron Scott's team will scrap even if its suspect talent is decimated by injuries. With tall and rugged swingman Omri Casspi added to the brutish style of second-year power forward Samardo Samuels and the antic but effective energy of center Anderson Varejao (until he's traded), the Cavs will win some games on grit and guts over tired opponents during this compressed schedule.

The Cavaliers are ahead of the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats -- all Eastern Conference teams.

Cleveland concludes its preseason schedule on Tuesday on the road against the Detroit Pistons and opens the regular season at home against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 26.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.