One Team, One Stat: Not Top 10


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, who got by with some bad defense.

The stat

20151027_cle_lowest_def

The context

20151027_cle_basicsHistory tells us that defense is a little more important than offense if you want to compete for and win a championship.

Of *the last 38 champs, six ranked outside the top 10 in offensive efficiency, while only three ranked outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency. And in **the last 13 years, when a better offensive team has faced a better defensive team in the playoffs, the better defensive team has won 66 (56 percent) of the 118 series.

* Since the league starting counting turnovers in 1977.
** Since the first round went to seven games

The numbers aren’t overwhelming, but they back up the idea that defense wins championships.

Still, a top-10 ranking on both ends of the floor is a good qualifier for a team’s ability to contend for a championship. Last season’s Cavs were terrific on offense, but ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in only one calendar month, the one that was broken up by the All-Star break.

20151027_cle_by_month

For the season, the Cavs were below average in regard to defending shots, forcing turnovers, and keeping their opponents off the offensive glass.

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Cleveland did improve defensively after trading for Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert in January, but ranked only 12th from the time Shumpert returned from his shoulder injury.

The Cleveland defense improved again in the playoffs, but that was partly due to the injuries to Kevin Love (who played in just 3 1/2 of their 20 games) and Kyrie Irving (12 1/2). David Blatt had to lean on more defensive-minded personnel and his team had no choice but to play ugly.

In the regular season, the Cavs had the league’s best offense against top-5 defenses. They only lost two playoff games on their way to The Finals and don’t seem to have a legit challenger in the Eastern Conference again this year. The Cavs still have the best player in the world and the league’s GMs picked them to win the championship.

But we’ve yet to see this team play at an elite level on both ends of the floor at the same time. Even if they’re eventually healthy this season, there’s room for improvement, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

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

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