One Team, One Stat: Three Seasons Worth Of Bad ‘D’ In Cleveland

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next is the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team poised to make a big jump this season.

The basics
CLE Rank
W-L 24-58 28
Pace 95.0 12
OffRtg 100.8 23
DefRtg 106.9 27
NetRtg -6.1 27

The stat

3 - The Cavs are the only team to rank in the bottom five in defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons.

The context

There are a few reasons Mike Brown is back in Cleveland, but a primary one is how poorly the Cavs played defensively under Byron Scott. Scott wasn’t blessed with the most talented or most veteran-y rosters in his three seasons — Alonzo Gee played 37 more games than any other Cav in Scott’s tenure and Anderson Varejao played just 81. But you don’t have to be that talented or experienced to play decent defense, and Cleveland wasn’t anywhere close to decent.

Cavs defense, 2012-13
Category CLE Rank
Opp2PT% 51.1% 28
Opp3PT% 37.2% 25
DREB% 72.6% 25
OppTmTOV% 16.1% 7
OppFTA Rate .304 28

As you can see from the table to the right, the one thing the Cavs’ defense did decently last season was force turnovers. Otherwise, they were bad across the board. Their opponents shot well from everywhere, they didn’t rebound well, and they fouled too much.

The Cavs were particularly bad at protecting the rim, allowing their opponents to shoot 64.1 percent in the restricted area, the third-worst mark in the league. They lacked rim protectors, but the problems started with breakdowns on the perimeter and continued with poor weak-side help.

Here are some defensive lowlights from a March 31 game where the Hornets (a mediocre offensive team) shot 18-for-27 in the restricted area and scorched the Cavs for 112 points (on about 93 possessions)…


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In comes Brown, who had the Cavs in the top-seven in defensive efficiency in three of his five previous seasons in Cleveland. Of course, Brown had LeBron James, as well as a healthy Varejao. In fact, the two seasons where the Cavs didn’t rank in the top seven defensively under Brown were the two seasons in which Varejao didn’t play a full season.

Cavs defense under Brown

Season DefRtg Rank vs. Lg. Avg. Varejao GP
2005-06 102.6 14 -0.8 48
2006-07 98.9 4 -4.8 81
2007-08 103.7 11 -1.1 48
2008-09 99.4 3 -6.0 81
2009-10 101.5 7 -3.4 76

Varejao’s health is key and it’s great news that he was cleared to play this week. It’s hard to expect anything out of Andrew Bynum at this point, but he could provide a defensive lift as well.

Still, if the Cavs want to challenge for a playoff spot, they will need improvement from their young bigs, as well as those wings that failed to help from the weak side in some of the examples above. So it should be no surprise that Brown is focusing on defense for the first few days of training camp.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTmTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponent FTA/FGA

6 Comments

  1. brains! says:

    the biggest question? andrew bynum… little risk… more reward.

  2. manie says:

    The Cavs will upset Indiana or any other team that plays big in the east. The combo of Andrew bynun and gasol tormented the league I cant wait to see what Verajao and Bynum can accomplish together.

  3. okc2014 says:

    I disagree. I think the Cavaliers will make 8th seed this season. Don’t know how far they will go after that, but really, they are looking much better than the Celtics, Bucks and maybe even the Hawks at this point. We shall see.

  4. Dr.Zoidberg says:

    Varejao is a monster on defense.

    • lyst says:

      When he is not injured, which is never. Cavs stay healthy it could be an interesting season, but that’s unlikely.