Schedule A Part Of Cavs’ Struggles

VIDEO: The Starters chat about the struggling Cavs

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — We’ve probably done enough dissection of the struggling Brooklyn Nets, whose main problem is the health of three of their top six guys. So let’s move on and try to figure out what’s wrong with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs didn’t have nearly the expectations that the Nets did, but they’ve been a lot more healthy and were a team we all expected to take a big step forward this season, compete for a playoff spot, and show potential free agents that this was a team you’d want to join. They have a new coach, a couple of new veterans, and a developing young core surrounding a star point guard in his third season.

But here they are at 4-11, tied with the Nets, having lost seven of their last eight games and ahead of only Milwaukee and Utah in point differential per 100 possessions. Their four wins have been by an average of 3.5 points and their 11 losses have been by an average of 13.0. So their point differential is that of a 3-12 team and it hasn’t been late-game luck that’s done them in.

There are trade rumors involving Dion Waiters, who they drafted with the No. 4 pick (ahead of Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond, among others) just 17 months ago and their No. 1 pick from this year has shot 21 percent and is receiving DNPs. If things don’t turn around soon, this will be the ugliest situation in the league (if it isn’t already).

So how does it turn around?

Mike Brown, with help from a healthy Anderson Varejao, has made a difference on defense, where the Cavs are allowing 4.0 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season. They’ve defended the paint better, they’ve done a better job of keeping their opponents off the free-throw line, and they’ve rebounded better. Considering where they were last season, it would have been near impossible to regress in those three areas and they still have a long way to go on defense, but progress is progress.

On offense, the Cavs have regressed. In fact, only three teams – Utah, New York and Milwaukee – have taken bigger steps back on that end of the floor.

Most regressed offenses (points scored per 100 possessions)

Team 2012-13 Rank 2013-14 Rank Diff.
Utah 103.6 12 92.2 30 -11.4
New York 108.6 3 98.2 24 -10.4
Milwaukee 100.9 21 93.4 29 -7.5
Cleveland 100.8 23 94.1 27 -6.7
Oklahoma City 110.2 2 103.8 9 -6.4

The Cavs have shot better (and more) from 3-point range, but they’re not getting to the basket as much as they did last season and they’re shooting worse when they get there.

Cavs shooting from restricted area and 3-point range, last two seasons

2012-13 1,238 2,211 56.0% 32.0% 547 1,581 34.6% 22.9%
2013-14 170 329 51.7% 26.2% 106 302 35.1% 24.1%

%RFGA = Percentage of total FGA from the restricted area
%3PA = Percentage of total FGA from 3-point range

Kyrie Irving‘s 3-point percentage has dropped quite a bit this season (he’s 1-for-12 in his last three games), but he’s taken more of his shots from the restricted area than he did last season. Inside, the issue is the Cleveland bigs, who don’t exactly dominate the paint.

Andrew Bynum has shot 7-for-24 in the restricted area, Tristan Thompson has also shot less than 50 percent near the basket, and Varejao has turned into a jump shooter. He has taken 40 percent of his shots from mid-range, up from 23 percent over his first nine seasons. Overall, the Cavs have attempted 33.2 percent of their shots from mid-range, in a virtual tie with the Wizards for the highest rate in the league.

Turnovers are another issue. Last season, the Cavs had the sixth lowest turnover rate in the league, coughing up the ball only 14.3 times per 100 possessions. This season, they’re turning it over 17.1 times per 100 possessions, the eighth highest rate in the league.

Irving’s turnover rate is about the same, but Jarrett Jack has the second highest turnover rate (behind only Victor Oladipo) of guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game. A few other rotation guys have seen their turnover rates increase.

At this point in the season, schedule has to be taken into account. The Cavs have played the eighth toughest schedule in the league (accounting for location and days of rest). They’re one of only two teams (the Nets are the other) that has yet to play two consecutive home games and eight of their 15 games have been against the league’s top 10 defenses. (They’re 3-4 and scoring 101.5 points per 100 possessions against non-top-10 defenses.)

After they visit Boston on Friday (7:30 ET, League Pass), the Cavs get their first homestand, hosting the Bulls on Saturday and Nuggets on Wednesday. Amazingly, they won’t get their first homestand of more than two games until late January, but they’ll have a couple of practice days in the next week and only two of their next 10 opponents rank in the top 10 defensively.

So, just by virtue of their schedule, the Cavs should see their offense improve. And hey, they’re only two games out of a playoff spot.

But there’s still some fixing to do on offense. They have to cut down on their turnovers, take better shots, and hope that Bynum can be more effective as the season goes on.


  1. D WADE says:

    Raptors will trade Kyle Lowry + 1st round pick for Kyrie.

  2. Brent says:

    I don’t think the problem is that the Cavs are boring to watch. I think the problem is that they’re 4-11.


    ANTHONY BENNET no.1 pick is he a BUST??

    • josh says:

      no, he has been having issues with anxiety, sleepapneia, he did have surgery just before the pre season as well he was meant to still be out at this point, he’s just having issues with conditioning, anyone with half a brain can see that he has a lot of talent and potential he just needs to work out his early career jitters

  4. okc2014 says:

    I agree, the Cavaliers are boring to watch. I’m very disappointed in this team. I really though with all the new players they added, they would make some noise. I’m focusing on my other promising team, the Washington Wizards, whom I believe is on an upward climb. Go Wizards!

    • mee(a)t says:

      “Being boring to watch” is no way a problem for the cavs…it’s not even a “problem”
      If being boring was a problem, the Spurs would be like the Utah Jazz
      (And this is just me, but the Spurs isn’t that boring to watch)

  5. jax says:

    dellavadova and Varejao the only men that is playing like they wants to win, all the rest of the guys are 2 cool 4 school

  6. dustydreamnz says:

    You see chemistry problems/off court distractions become a problem in all sports. I think when Waiters is traded there may be some improvement because he appears to be a big part of that. Tristan Thompson has been one of their best players this year so I find it hard to criticise him. I still think they’re a playoff hope, East is pretty weak.

  7. Polak fromPoland says:

    Kyrie is starter point guard,so he should dime at least 7-8 times per game, that’w why they loosin

    • diehard says:

      Players have to hit shots when they get the ball. It appears they cannot hit an ocean with a dime. They have chemistry issues, a lack of offensive schemes, and have yet to find anyone who is willing to play. Irving has to shoot, no one else is remotely close into doing that. Playing with a big is very difficult for them at the moment. And with all the expectations this team has been in the going in the opposite direction. Granted, they should have a better record. It is still too early for the panic button. December will be the month for which they will have to get much better. If not, lottery here we come again.

  8. Handsitter says:

    The real problem with the Cavs is …. they are BORING to watch!

    All this chatter about ‘defense wins championships’ is only relevant to the top 3 or 4 teams who are looking for that last tiny edge.

    Every other team that chases defense FIRST, while losing game after game after game, is simply too boring to watch!

    WHERE is the ABA when we need it? At least they had fun games!!!

  9. Unkle Daddy says:

    First of Kyrie has turned into a one man show for some reason, that needs fix, now. That may have something to do with wanting to prove that Waiters isn’t needed on a personal level. They really do need to get this kid some serious help soon or you’ll have a mini-Lebron situation again. I’ll never understand bringing back Brown as Coach, either.

  10. PalmOil Preference says:

    Allow me to disagree. The Cavs struggles are chemistry and defense. Being a good team has alot to do with the chemistry and cohesion of the parts that make up the team. The Cavs have little to none of this. A new coach and a bunch of new “slightly healthy” faces is making it tough for this young team to build any monementum.

    On the defense end is just as bad. They are scoring less points then they are giving up clearly resulting in losses. The alarming part for me is the rate of thier oppenents from the field and three are better then theirs as well. In addition they turn the ball over more then they are generating.

    A supposed defensive minded team is not playing defensive well at all. Looking no further then chemistry and defense is the demise of this young promising team at this point in the season. Luckily this a marathon so we shall stay tuned.

    • Kome the Black Dumba says:

      I totally agreed on the defensive part. I think Kyle is a good player but he needs to work on the defensive end.

    • Pakyaw says:

      The problem on this team is lack of talent.. They’re not good drafting a players,just a waste…Bennett? Really?..Thompson? Started shooting left hand on ft. ,now he’s right handed?.. I mean come on!..

      • Dave says:

        Sorry, but switching hands is a great way to improve free throw percentage. Free throws are ALL about consistency. Using the same form EVERY time. If you are a right handed shooter and your bad at free throws, switching hands forces you to pay close attentionto the mechanics and form, thus making you a more cconsistent free throw shooter. His percentage hasjumped sharply, by switching hands.

  11. Pine says: