After suffering their 3rd straight loss last night at the hands of the Indianna Pacers by a final score of 97-95, the Cleveland Cavaliers inability to play defense are continuing to be exploited and a recurring problem that could be detrimental to their success in the long run.
The Cavs came into last nights game after suffering a pitiful 133-99 loss to the Raptors in Toronto without their 2nd best player, Kyle Lowry and defensive shot-blocker, Serge Ibaka. Just one game before that, the Cavs took yet another shameful loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves by a final score of 127-99. In both games, Cavs went into the half trailing by 25 and 27 points. The only other team to go into a half down by 25+ points in consecutive games this season are the Sacramento Kings.
It would be the first for many things. The back-to-back blowout losses would be the first time a LeBron James team lost consecutive games by at least 25 points. It was also the first time in LeBron’s career where he was a -20 or worse in plus-minus in consecutive games. Unfortunately, there’s more. The 133 points by the Raptors would also be the most points allowed in a regulation game in LeBron’s career. And lastly, it was the most points scored by the Raptors in a regulation game in franchise history.
So what gives? Why have the Cavaliers been in such a funk to start the New Year? Well, it’s actually really simple. Defense. You know that thing teams do when they slide with their feet, rotate, stay in front of the man and contest shots to prevent the other team from scoring in your basket? Yeah, that. Apparently, they forgot that was apart of the game, so much so that they’ve quickly become one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.
The Clevelan Cavaliers(no that wasn’t a typo) currently have the 2nd worst defensive rating in the NBA with an abysmal 109.3 rating. They’re just slightly better defensively than the Sacramento Kings who have a league rating of 109.9. You probably think it can’t get any worse than that right? Well, you’d be sadly mistaken. The Cavs are currently 30th in contested 2PT shots(34.3), 28th in blocks per game(3.8), 24th in deflections per game(12.6), 23rd in loose balls recovered(6.7) and 23rd in contested shots(58.1).
Don’t worry, we’re almost done. Bare with me a little longer as we take a look at how their opponents fare offensively against them. They rank 29th in OPP assists(25.6). 26th in OPP turnovers(13.8). 27th in OPP in field-goals made(41.3). 24th in OPP points in the paint(46.1). 24th in OPP FG%(47.1). 25th in OPP 3P%(37.2) and 25th in OPP points(108.5). Just downright horrid numbers for a LeBron James led team that’s been to the finals for the past 3 years. Change needs to be made sooner rather than later before it gets worse.
So what can the Cavs do to fix this ongoing dilemma? They could start by actually playing defense collectively as a team and buying into one another? Nah, too complicated. They could fire head coach Tyronne Lue and implement a new coach? Nah, the front office would never. Maybe the 1st round Brooklyn Nets pick they acquired from the Celtics could open up the door for a possible trade involving a 7-foot-defensive-minded-board-hog-giant in LA? I think we found the solution.
The Cavs rank 28th in blocks, 26th in offensive rebounds and 22nd in rebounding overall. DeAndre Jordan would instantaneously improve those numbers. He’s 1st in total rebounds in the NBA with 609 for the season. 2nd in rebounds at 14.9 per contest and 3rd in offensive rebounds, snagging down 4.4 a game. Though his blocks per game has took a hit compared to previous years, that’s not to be underestimated as he’s still an elite rim protector that’ll make opponents think twice before entering the paint.
Not only does DeAndre give the Cavs much needed defense that their team desperately requires, but they also get one of the best rebounders and a great finisher around the rim who happens to be 2nd in the NBA in field-goal percentage at 66%. Not to mention the Cavs will have an actual center which will allow Kevin Love to move back to his primary position and gives him.
What makes this trade even more interesting is Cavs could throw in a few more assets and attempt to acquire Lou Williams in the process.
Clippers have already expressed their desire to rebuild. Cavs can send the Nets pick, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert for Deandre and Lou Williams. Cavs upgrade their defense and rebounding while also adding to their already elite offense with Lou Will. Clippers get their pick plus Tristan Thompson to pair next to Blake Griffin and a little extra with Shumpert. All sides are satisfied.
While we’re on the subject of trades and defensive upgrades, here’s another possible solution where Cavs can further expand on their defense by making another trade. The Detroit Pistons have put Stanley Johnson on the trade market, another piece that the Cavaliers could benefit from. Stanley is still very young. At just 21 years old, he still has a lot of potential. His numbers might not jump out at you but that’s not a problem since defense is his specialty and that’s exactly what he’s being asked to do. Stanley is a versatile defender that can be utilized very effectively in the right situation. He can provide great energy for the Cavs second unit and give them some youth and athleticism, how could you pass that up?
Now I understand the Cavaliers have made it very clear that they will not trade their pick out of fear that LeBron flees on the franchise again. While that’s completely understandable, let’s face reality…the Cleveland Cavaliers as a franchise will never come as close to another NBA championship as they have since LeBron’s return, so is that pick really worth losing the best thing thats ever happened to your organization?
He already brought you one ring, why not give it everything you have right now while you still have him on your team? If that means trading away the pick for more talent and elevating your defense then do it. With the way things are looking right now the Nets pick will likely end up as 8-10 pick. Ask yourselves, is that pick really worth coming up short in another championship run? Is the 9th or 10th pick in the 2018 NBA draft worth losing to the Warriors in the finals for a 2nd straight year? Is it worth losing one of the greatest basketball players to ever pick up a basketball?
Therefore, the Cavaliers should go all in right now. If this truly is the end of the LeBron-Cavs era, why not give it everything you have? Lay it all out there for one last run at the Larry O’Brien trophy. You win? LeBron stays and finishes his career in Cleveland. What if LeBron leaves after winning it all? Well, look on the bright side, now your franchise has 2 NBA championships and 5 Eastern Conference championships and there’s no resentment between each other like there was the first time around. Everyone will finally be able to move on and the chapter will end on a positive note. You have all the time in the world to rebuild and develop young talent, but LeBron James won’t be here forever. The time is now.