Cavaliers coach Byron Scott preaches defense. Then, more defense. He wants his defense to lead to easy opportunities on the offensive end.
Sure, a lot of NBA coaches talk the same thing, it’s rare that any head coach in the Association says they don’t care about the defensive end of the floor. They know that in the playoffs, you have to be able to stop teams to win and advance.
However, Scott has no choice. His team is very limited on the offensive end of the floor.
The Cavs have one player who is a proven scorer in the NBA, and that’s veteran Antawn Jamison, who’s averaging 16.7 points per night. Jamison isn’t a sniper though, he’s a volume points producers, meaning he has to take a lot of shots to get his points.
He’s shooting just 42% for the year and has taken 24 more shots than anyone else wearing the wine and gold.
That’s why rookie Kyrie Irving has had to carry a bigger load than he probably should be at this point of his development, although the early returns have shown he’s been up to the task. The first overall pick is Cleveland’s second leading scorer at 15.6 per game, shooting 44%.
The rest of the starting lineup has Anderson Varejao, who is more of a defender and rebounder, Anthony Parker, who a spot up three-point shooter, and Omri Casspi, who has struggled mightily thus far, scoring just 6.3 points on 38% shooting.
Casspi was expected to be a scoring option among the starters, but hasn’t gotten the job done so far.
In fact, the Cavaliers’ third leading scorer is reserve point guard Ramon Sessions, who’s averaging 10.3 points on 35% shooting. Unfortunately, he plays the same spot as Irving, meaning both can’t be on the floor at the same time very often.
Scott only has three players who are making more than 47% of their attempts: Rookie Tristan Thompson, whose 54% mark comes from a lot of dunks and put backs, Varejao (51%-see Thompson), and the biggest surprise on the team, Alonzo Gee, who is connecting at a 50% clip.
Gee has picked up the slack for Casspi, combining slashing to the basket with an improved outside shot to score 8.3 points a night in 27 minutes.
Daniel Gibson has also shown much improvement this season, particularly defensively, but remains pretty much the same player on offense as Parker, a spot up three-point shooter, although he is very good at that role.
So, outside of their top three scorers, the Cavs have nobody who can create their own shots. That limits their scoring opportunities.
Yes, when they have games where they shoot the three-point shot well, like in their most recent home game against Charlotte, they can score a lot of points.
But when they are struggling from outside, they can’t put points on the board.
And Irving is really the only guy you can go to when you need a basket to stop a run. A heck of a burden to put on a rookie, but Scott really doesn’t have much of a choice.
Most NBA teams get their scoring from the wing positions, #2 guard and small forward. That’s why offense is a problem for this team, and it’s why Scott desperately needs production out of Casspi.
Cleveland doesn’t have dynamic offensive players at those spots, only Gee has shown any ability to create his own shot.
Until GM Chris Grant can upgrade those positions, the Cavaliers will have to rely on defense to win games.