The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a trainwreck this year on the defensive end of the ball. They’ve missed rotations, nobody seems to know who is supposed to help and who is supposed to stay with their man and kickouts to open shooters have often left the Cavs with two players charging at the closeout for no reason.
J.R. Smith says that the Cavaliers defense is improving, but they still need to get better at communicating with each other on that end of the court:
JR Smith on Cavs D: “It really shouldn’t take long, honestly. It’s all communication at this point. We do have, for whatever reason, a lack of talking on the court. We talk like females off the court, but we can’t get it right on the court. We gotta get it right somehow.”— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) November 8, 2017
Aside from the weird “talking like females” line, J.R. is probably right. The Cavaliers remain dead last defensively in the NBA this season, allowing 112.4 points per 100 possessions to teams they play.
It’s not particularly close either. The Bucks are 29th in defensive rating, and they’re nearly three points better at 109.5. The difference between the Cavs and the Bucks is roughly the same as the difference between the Bucks and the 21st-ranked Kings.
Some of this will normalize, as teams have shot the lights out against the Cavs, but man, they’re not really doing much to stop the opposition either. Teams are allowing teams to shoot 31.7 threes per game against them and allowing them to hit a league-high 42.1 percent of them.
The Cavaliers have shown marginal progress as a team in the last three games, but until they solve their defensive problems, there’s a ceiling on just how good they can be.