There is no question that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense has been hugely disappointing so far in this young NBA season.
And the biggest thing needed to help the defense might be for the Cavs to start making shots.
That seems ridiculous, right?
Let’s start with the fact that the Cavs’ transition defense is terrible. Besides giving up easy layups on fast break opportunities, the new NBA has three point shooters spotting up in transition, and they are getting wide open opportunities.
In the wine and gold’s four victories this season, the lowest shooting percentage for the team was an Opening Night 45.8% vs. Boston. In the other three games, the Cavs shot over 50%.
In their five losses, they shot 50% or better in just one game, the loss last Wednesday night to Indiana.
Overall, Cleveland ranks 5th in the NBA in field goal percentage, but that is misleading because LeBron James has started the season on fire.
James has been taking roughly a quarter of the team’s shots (23.1%), and he is making a crazy 61% of those attempts.
However Kevin Love, who has taken the next most shots, is hitting just 41.4% of his attempts. Derrick Rose is third in attempts per game, and is making 50%, but he has missed four games, and the Cavs lost three of those contests.
It gets worse from there, though.
Dwyane Wade is making just 40.3%, Jae Crowder is hitting on 39.7% of his shots, and JR Smith is at a horrific 27.4% total, and only 21% from behind the arc.
And those players rank 4th through 6th on the team in field goals attempted.
Combined, that sextet combines for 88% of the Cavaliers’ field goal attempts on the season. And four of those players are in major shooting slumps.
When those guys start making more shots, and yes, we understand James won’t be able to maintain that torrid pace (we think), there will be less transition opportunities, which will help the defense.
That’s not the only thing that needs to improve.
For some reason, the Cavs’ organization seems to ignore the impact of having big men on the floor.
Even Golden State, for all of their small ball tendencies, still have made it a priority to have some size on the roster. Besides Kevin Durant, they have Zaza Pachulia, JeVale McGee, and David West, and brought in rookie Jordan Bell, who Steve Kerr is giving some playing time.
Without Tristan Thompson available, coach Tyronn Lue needs to start giving rookie Ante Zizic some time because outside of Love and Jeff Green, he doesn’t have a lot of height on the roster.
Sometimes, we think the Cavs forget that height is a big factor in the sport of basketball.
We also believe the Cavaliers play too fast for their own good.
In 2015-16, Cleveland was 28th in pace and 10th in defensive efficiency. That number dropped to 21st last season, with the Cavs ranking 15th in pace.
This season, albeit very early, Lue’s team ranks 14th in pace, and last in defense. Perhaps some sort of compromise is in order.
We believe the shooting issues will take care of themselves. Players like Love, Crowder, and Smith have proven track records of making shots.
The other issues are incumbent on the coaching staff. There is a time to play bigger and slower, particularly with a roster that is one of the league’s oldest.
We will see if Lue can adjust.