Is the Defense Beyond Repair?


We have all heard that our defense is bad. This is not news to anyone. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this is not going away anytime soon. It’s David Blatt’s responsibility to find a way to implement a defensive system that can be successful. The Cavs are bad in every defensive category. They’re 24th in opponents’ points per game, 26th in defensive rating, 27th in opponents’ field goal percentage, and 18th in opponents’ 3 point percentage. We all knew the Cavs would struggle on defense, but no one expected that they would be this bad.

The defense looks completely lost. They look like a middle school team ‘B’ team. The Cavs are completely lost when it comes to defending the pick and roll. The on ball defender never seems to know if he should fight through the screen, hedge, or switch. What ends up happening is he ends up doing none of them and gets caught in no man’s land. The defender on the screener is also confused. The off ball defender doesn’t know if he should stay with his man or switch. He also gets caught in no man’s land. What ends up happening is one of or both players involved in the pick and roll end up open. This leads to us giving up monster games to the opposing point guards. Damian Lilard had 27 points, Rose had 20 in 2 and a half quarters, Lawson had 24, and Rondo had 16 assists. Point guards will continue to torch this defense unless they find a way to contain the pick and roll.

Another glaring weakness is the off ball defense. The Cavs give up way too many open shots. In man to man defense when you’re off the ball you’re supposed to be in a position where you can see your man and the ball handler. The Cavs get in the mode of just watching the ball and end up losing their man. Irving lost Lawson multiple times in the Cavs loss to the Nuggets on Monday. Often times these result in layups, open 3 pointers, or trips to the line.
The defense also doesn’t know how to rotate. Their defensive rotation always seems to be one step too late. When they do help on defense they don’t get there nearly enough and they foul, or they stand in no man’s land trying to help on the ball while still covering their man which is absolutely pointless.

Acquiring a rim protector would solve some problems but its not the end all solution. Guards like Irving, Waiters, Marion, and Harris need to know what they’re doing. The blame for this defense has to fall on the coaching staff. It is their job to develop a defense and stick with it. But, on the other hand, the players need to be willing to buy into the system and play hard every night.

The good news is all of these problems can be solved. It’s not a lack of talent. LeBron, Varejae, and Marion have proven in their careers they can be good defenders. Irving, Waiters, Love, and Thompson have the physical ability to be decent defenders as well. This team needs to show they have what it takes to learn a defensive system and stick with it. I believe they will.


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