But it's close.
The Westgate SuperBook posted its NBA season win totals Tuesday. The SuperBook opened the Cavaliers' season win total at 58.5. The Oklahoma City Thunder (57.5), defending champion San Antonio Spurs (56.5), Chicago Bulls (55.5), Los Angeles Clippers (55.5) and Golden State Warriors (50.5) also are projected to win 50-plus games.
Last season, the SuperBook set the Cavs' season win total at 40.5. Cleveland went 33-49 but significantly upgraded its roster with the return of James and the trade for All-Star forward Kevin Love.
In James' first seven seasons in Cleveland, the Cavaliers averaged 50.7 wins. They averaged just 24.5 wins the previous four years while James was with the Miami Heat.
"The Cavs' number was made with their new team in relation to the East and past years' numbers that we used for the Heat," said Jeff Sherman, head NBA oddsmaker for the SuperBook. "Their number is slightly lower than Heat's in the LeBron years, with this being the Cavs' new players first year together."
The Heat's win total last season was 60.5. Without James, this year's number at the SuperBook is 43.5.
The Bulls' first preseason game isn't until Monday against the Washington Wizards, but Rose is just happy to have a part with the team again. Having played just 10 games in two years because of two knee surgeries, Rose is trying to change the mental approach to his game even more than the physical one.
"That's the part of the game I'm learning right now, just the patience side," Rose said. "Just having patience. Doing everything, getting the most out of every day, recovery-wise, on the court, really working my butt off. Just trying to work out hard, doing all the little things, the fundamental parts that people overlook. Just trying to play with a lot of confidence, and that's what I did today when we were playing in the scrimmage."
Rose practiced with the starters' group alongside Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is confident that Rose's newfound patience is having a solid impact on his team.
"We talked about that at length before [Team] USA [camp started]," Thibodeau said. "I think his experience has helped him. I think last year he was trying to get it all back in one day. I thought right before he got reinjured he started to find a good rhythm again. He was 10 games into [the season]. This time, he's not rushing like he did. But there's still a fine line for him. Still be aggressive, find a rhythm, but not force it.
"I don't want him overthinking it, I want him to play. That's why I think it's so important for him to play. The only way you get that timing ... basketball's not an individual sport, it's not tennis. You got to work with your teammates. The only way you get to do that is being out there with them."
Having Rose on the floor again has given a big jolt to his teammates as they embark on what they believe will be a championship journey.
"I think [Rose] was outstanding today," said newcomer Gasol after his first Bulls practice. "He looked great out there. I look forward to continue to see more of him and play more with him."
As for specific differences in his game, Rose drew a laugh from the assembled media when asked how his game will be different this time around.
"Everybody keeps asking that. I don't know. What more do y'all want?"
"I'm just going to try and play my regular game. Take shots, see what's missing first. If it's missing, rebounding, assists, whatever category's missing, I'm just going to try and fill it in with the way that I play."
Thibodeau is just glad to have his star back on the floor and remains hopeful that Rose will be able to avoid another serious injury this season.
"Hopefully he's got past the hurdle of, 'How do you feel?'" Thibodeau said. "He went through all of that. Played the five games in six days [in the World Cup of Basketball]. [Went through] the schedule and handled all of it well. So now the challenge for him is to play well, to play up to his capability, and the only way he can shake rust off is by playing, so that's critical."
CHICAGO -- When Derrick Rose raised the MVP trophy in 2011 after a 60-win season, there was a feeling throughout Chicagoland that the Bulls were entering a new era of greatness after the long post-Michael Jordan darkness. Key word in there being "era."
That concept has now been long forgotten, there's no longer time for the Bulls to lean on the long run. If they are going to make something happen with what was once a promising core of young players, then the time is likely right now.
That's the reality the Bulls carry as they enter the 2014-15 season. The Cleveland Cavaliers' potential super team, with roles to define and some holes to fill, is perhaps now as vulnerable as it will be for the next few years. The Indiana Pacers are devastated with Paul George's injury. The four-time defending East champs in Miami have taken a step back. Derrick Rose is as healthy as he's been since his ACL tear but his reliability is in question. Joakim Noah is wearing down a bit, coming off knee surgery that he has said will change his life. Their huge free-agent pickup, Pau Gasol, is 34 years old with his own history of knee problems. Taj Gibson turned 29 over the summer.
Simply put, there's no more waiting for next year for the Bulls.
CHICAGO -- Unlike Chicago Bulls tickets and food on Randolph Street, talk is one thing that's still cheap on the West Side.
So while Bulls media day is a time for endless optimism and empty promises, Derrick Rose knows his quotes about returning (again) from a season-ending knee injury are worth about as much as a preseason victory.
"I can sit here and say a million times that I'm going to be fine, but think the only way to answer all the critics and everyone asking about me is actually being on the court and actually playing," Rose said Monday at the team's new West Side training facility.
Actually Playing is a good sub-theme for The Return, Part 2.
For the past two seasons, give or take a couple months, Rose has been a basketball bystander thanks to a pair of knee surgeries. And while he sat in a suit, the vacuum was filled by endless chatter about his heart, his mind and his dedication. That's what happens when a star is dimmed in a big market.
Does anyone still care whether or not he no-look-passed the dinner rolls to Carmelo Anthony? I thought not.
The silly season is over. A city looks forward to watching Rose play basketball again without the weight of a franchise on his shoulders.
"I see him in the gym, he's so happy right now," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said.
Wait 'til coach Tom Thibodeau starts yelling. If Rose smiles through that, you know he missed basketball.
Training camp begins this week at Camp Thibs -- now at the sparkling new Advocate Center across the street from the United Center -- and of course, Rose is the lead story.
CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose's confidence remains high despite the fact the former MVP has played just 10 games in the last two years because of two major knee injuries.
He made that clear during Chicago Bulls' media day on Monday when he reaffirmed his belief that a championship is in his future.
"I try my hardest to stay away from [the predictions]," Rose said. "But we know we have an opportunity ahead of us. It may not be this year, it may not be the next year or whatever, but I know that we have one [in us]. I know I'm going to win a championship soon so I'm not worried about that."
Rose's proclamation came on a day in which confidence permeated the Advocate Center, the Bulls' sparkling new downtown training facility. With a healthy Rose in the fold, alongside All-Star Joakim Noah and former All-Star Pau Gasol, many believe the Bulls have a legitimate chance to win a championship this season.
Obviously, that will only happen with a healthy Rose, a fact the 25-year-old understands. He's also embracing the reality that he will have to answer questions about his health for the rest of his career because of the way his body has broken down over the past few years.
Brooks almost seemed eager to bestow the label on his player as the coach addressed reporters at the team's media day.
"I believe Russell is the best point guard in basketball," Brooks said, unprompted. "That's happened over time. I've seen Russell every practice, every game, every film session, and he's really put a lot of time into being the best point guard in basketball."
Westbrook certainly has a strong case, but the point guard position is as deep as it has ever been. Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker and John Wall, among others, are pretty stiff competition.
As you'd expect, though, Westbrook concurred with his coach's statement.
"I do," he said. "I'm very honored to hear him say that, but that's how I feel. I mean, I don't know what to tell you."
Westbrook has never been short on confidence, playing with a brash sense of self-assurance despite occasional outspoken criticism. Even playing alongside as prolific a player as Kevin Durant, Westbrook rarely hesitates when it comes to putting his mark on a game.
With that in mind, let's take a look at 10 of the top storylines facing the Bulls this season:
Can Rose stay healthy?
It's the question that won't go away for the Bulls. Nobody knows the answer. The former MVP didn't play very well as a member of Team USA at the World Cup earlier this month, but he played, and that's a good sign for the Bulls. He still has a lot of rust to shake off and fans shouldn't rush to judge his game early in the year, but if the Bulls want to compete for a title, everyone in the United Center knows Rose must be able to stay on the floor. It's going to be very interesting to see how coach Tom Thibodeau uses Rose early in the season. The guess here is that Thibodeau will be extra cautious with his star. Despite Thibodeau's track record of piling up the minutes, I'd be very surprised if Rose consistently played close to 40 minutes a night early in the season.
Can Noah have another All-Star season?Joakim Noah has proved himself to be one of the best centers in the game and an integral part of everything the Bulls do. He had offseason knee surgery and said earlier in the summer that he'd be fine once training camp rolled around. With Rose on the floor he won't have as much pressure to create offensively, but he is a much better player than he was the last time Rose played anywhere close to a full season. Noah should be able to continue building on the great play he's put together the past two seasons.
What kind of impact will McDermott have?
A large one. I've been asked a lot this summer about Doug McDermott and whether he will have a bigger impact this season than fellow rookie Nikola Mirotic. I think he will, and I think McDermott will become the first rookie to have a major role in Thibodeau's rotation. Omer Asik played some solid minutes in his rookie season, but he didn't get consistent minutes early on. McDermott has a chance to be a difference-maker from the start. The Bulls' staff loves the way he can shoot and space the floor for Rose & Co. If the rookie from Creighton proves he can pick up Thibodeau's defensive schemes quickly, he will see minutes early.
Will Mirotic make an impact?
Early in the season, likely not. The Bulls' front office loves Mirotic's ability and believes he can grow into a very good player over time, but the 23-year-old must prove to Thibodeau that he can play defense and adjust to NBA competition. Mirotic could be a big factor off the bench for Thibodeau later in the season, but with Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson at the 4, there aren't a lot of minutes to go around.
How much does Gasol have left in the tank?
Gasol averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds last season and gives the Bulls the type of back-to-the-basket scorer they've been yearning for, but he is 34 years old. The former All-Star can still produce at a high level, but can he stay healthy throughout the season? Much like Rose, it's going to be intriguing to see how Thibodeau doles out Gasol's minutes to keep him fresh.
How will Thibs use Noah, Gasol, Gibson?
The educated guess here is that Gasol will be used in a similar role to that of the departed Carlos Boozer, playing 25-30 minutes a night. But it will be Noah and Gibson whom Thibodeau uses to close out games because of their defensive prowess.
Can Butler improve his shot?Jimmy Butler shot just 39.7 percent from the field last season and struggled to find his shooting stroke throughout various points of the season. Going into his fourth season, Butler will be seeking a big contract extension this summer, but to get that he must prove he can find his offense. Butler is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and is well-liked in the locker room, but to take the next step in his progression he must start knocking down more jumpers. The good news for him is that playing alongside Rose -- really for the first time for a long stretch -- should free up more space for him on the floor.
Can Snell take another step?
Maybe. The Bulls' coaching staff loved what Tony Snell did during the Vegas summer league, but now the second-year swingman has to prove he can play well when the games count. He showed flashes last season but didn't always look confident on the floor. After Snell added more muscle in the offseason, the Bulls hope he can take a step the same way Butler did in his second season.
Is there enough offense?
Always the million-dollar question behind that of Rose's health. The reality for Thibodeau is that there should be enough as long as his roster stays relatively healthy -- at least enough to get to an expected showdown with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. Rose's presence on the floor and his ability to create make his teammates better. McDermott and Mike Dunleavy should be able to knock down open looks, while Gasol and Noah can clean up the glass. But the issue for the Bulls is the same as it ever was: Who besides Rose will be able to create offense in the postseason? Thibodeau will have to cross that bridge when he gets there.
Will Thibs actually use his bench?
On paper, the Bulls are 11 players deep, 12 if you count veteran center Nazr Mohammed, who was re-signed last week. Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson did a nice job filling up the roster for Thibodeau after failing to land Carmelo Anthony in free agency. But now it's up to Thibodeau to use the new players throughout the season and pace his team so that it will be ready for the postseason. This team is much deeper than it was a year ago, and there is a sense of urgency within the organization that this is the year for the Bulls to win their first title of the post-Jordan era.