Cleveland Cavaliers: The Fabled ‘Defensive Switch’

No surprises here.

The Cleveland Cavaliers defense has been a fiery source of debate all season. That they rank 18th in points allowed per 100 possessions since the trade deadline is actually encouraging.

Just barely staving off bottom-10 status still isn’t good. The Cavaliers’ detonative offense can get them out of the Eastern Conference. They’re pumping in 135.7 points per 100 possessions during the short time (86 minutes) George Hill, LeBron James and Kevin Love have shared the court. No singular defensive stand, however impressive, is overthrowing that planetary production.

Stingier stopping power is needed almost solely to leave nfl china jerseys nike  a mark in the NBA Finals. The Western Conference will send in a superpower representative, be it the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets—both of which are, at full strength, equipped to match Cleveland bucket for bucket.829d0ad599d5c75d98d8edbc49374493_crop_exact

If the Cavaliers don’t iron out the wrinkles in their pick-and-roll coverage or nfl teams jerseys general tracking of shooters, they will fall in five games. But does that extra level of engagement exist?

For James specifically, it does—if only because he cannot be anymore disengaged. He flashes the occasional interest with a block, passing-lane grab or clinic in space, but he’s spent a large chunk of the year almost aimlessly wandering around.

His closeouts are especially revealing, because they don’t exist. He’s allowing 1.13 points per possession as a spot-up defender, the ninth-worst mark among 96 players to guard at least 150 of these plays. He won’t champion the same lackadaisical demeanor in the playoffs, which drives up Cleveland’s defensive ceiling by default.cheap women nfl jerseys

It doesn’t work that way for the rest of the roster. Guys like Love, Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Korver (he tries hard!) and JR Smith cannot level-up on command. Rodney Hood is among the league’s most overrated defenders. Tristan Thompson hasn’t looked right all year. nfl jersey factory

Knowing they won’t suddenly morph into an elite defensive outfit, the Cavaliers must instead focus on more fundamental issues. Can they cobble together half-competent defensive units when Love plays the 5? Can Larry Nance Jr. cover up for him in a way Thompson no longer does? Which lineups give them the best chance of yielding consistently average returns?

Cleveland has some silver linings. Love-at-center lineups are mostly hopeless—though a few combinations that don’t include Smith are worth nfl jersey wholesale authentic additional exploration, per Cleaning The Glass. The returns on a Love-Nance duo are promising through 30-something minutes of action. And playing James next to Jeff Green while also sitting Smith has been found money for the Cavaliers almost since Day 1.

They just need to see whether these breaks in the clouds hold over larger samples against superior opponents.