More rim protection content? More rim protection content. Onward!
Defense isn’t all on a rim protecting center, so how much of the Cavs’ defense woes actually stem from a lack of rim protection?
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): It’s not the entire reason the Cavs’ defense is bad. There just aren’t any lockdown perimeter defenders to support whomever is playing center. The Cavs also have a lot of young players on their roster, including two 20-something guards who are both listed at 6’1”. With where this team is right now, defensive issues are baked into this roster.
Evan Dammarrell (@AmNotEvan): It’s a bit of a mixed bag. I mentioned this on my podcast Locked on Cavs but the Cavs have not had a truly reliable rim protector since Timofey Mozgov. After Mozerat had knee surgery, it’s a ghost the Cavs have been chasing ever since. They’ve had truly elite rebounders like Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, and Andre Drummond — but none of them are rim protectors.
On the other hand, the Cavs are also hamstrung by Collin Sexton and Darius Garland being turnstiles on the perimeter. A porous front line is also doing a weak backline no favors either.
Jackson Flickinger (@Akron_Jackson): A rim protecting center can cover up some defensive deficiencies, but it isn’t the solution to the problem. The biggest problem with the Cavs’ defense is that they can’t stay in front of their guys on the perimeter whether it’s guards or wings. A great rim protector would help, but it isn’t the solution to the problem.
Which draft prospect that could fill the rim protection need is your favorite?
CM: I like Onyeka Okongwu over James Wiseman, the other option near the top of the draft because he gives you options as the back end of a defensive scheme. He’s smaller than Wiseman, sure, but he can drop, switch and hedge. Wiseman maybe can get there, but he’s going to be best served dropping more so than doing other things. (For what it’s worth, dropping is the preferred choice for J.B. Bickerstaff’s scheme.) Plus, Okongwu still has a a 7’1” wingspan and is listed at 245 pounds. It’s not like Okongwu is small.
ED: This debate is going to come down to between James Wiseman and Onyeka Okongwu for best available rim protector. If the Cavs land in the top three, it’s going to be Wiseman based on what I have heard. It makes sense, the former Memphis Tiger averaged 4.7 blocks per 36 minutes albeit on a small sample size. Okongwu, meanwhile, makes more sense if the Cavs slide out of the top three and could be one of the better prospects available in time. For reference, Okongwu averaged 3.6 blocks per 36 minutes and did so as an undersized center.
JF: I’d probably go with Wiseman everything being equal. Wiseman fits better in a dropping scheme which is something Bickerstaff and the NBA as a whole is preferring. I also feel like he has a higher ceiling and floor than Okongwu at this point. However, I’m always hesitant to take a center this high in the draft. We’ve seen good centers get run off the floor in the playoffs by smaller, quicker teams. I have that fear with any center the Cavs would take.
Are there any bargain-bin free agents at center you’d like to see the Cavs look at?
CM: I like Kyle O’Quinn. He’s 30, so he’s not entirely too old for the Cavs to be interested in, and is just a solid interior defender. He contests shots, has a really high block rate and just knows what to do. O’Quinn probably is better served as center depth on a good team, but he’d be a good veteran option for the Cavs especially if they use their top pick on a center and want an adult in the room. I’d also be into nabbing Nerlens Noel, who has become a pretty good rim protector and rim runner after a wacky start to his career.
ED: Can Edy Tavares come back for a Cleveland reunion? All jokes aside, there could be some options to fill out this problem on the cheap for the Cavs. Thon Maker, who is glued to the bench in Detroit, will be a restricted free agent this summer and averaged 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes. If not Maker, Willy Hernangomez could be a sneaky fun option. He’s barely played for the Hornets this year but has averaged a shade under a block per game per 36 minutes.
JF: Not really. I’m out on the Cavs’ adding a rotational center to the roster unless they lose Tristan Thompson in free agency and don’t draft a center in the first round. The Cavs have so many holes on the roster. I’d rather see them take as many flyers as possible on wings. Having a decent rim protector ranks low on my list of needs. If pressed though, I’d agree with Chris in maybe taking a look at Nerlens Noel. He fits the prototype of a rim protector and runner which is what you’re looking for in a traditional center nowadays.
What is your take on Andre Drummond’s future value?
CM: Him making $28.7 million next year is uncontrollable. But beyond that, the Cavs should really consider how much they want to pay him. There are things Drummond does well - rebounding on both ends, running the floor, etc. — but it’s not worth almost $30 million. Even if he asks for $20 million a year, I’d be worried about giving him that much. I can’t wait to see how the Cavs approach this.
ED: Andre Drummond is going to frustrate Cavs fans this season and make whichever team he ends up with after that very happy. As Chris has written on here, Andre is trying to evolve his game to look similar to Brook Lopez. The problem is, that doesn’t work at all for Andre and he will always be best suited as a rim running big man who gobbles up an obscene amount of boards. Since his archetype of player is a dinosaur, Drummond will likely sign for much less compared to the $28.7 million he’s set to make next year. If Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are still wreaking havoc in Los Angeles, Drummond would be perfect there.
JF: It remains to be seen. Drummond needs to expand his game if he’s going to get another big contract. Teams simply don’t give out huge contracts to traditional centers. We’ve seen him experiment with a suspect outside shot after being traded over here. I believe the Cavs and Drummond know that it’s in everyone’s best interest to develop that part of his game. Drummond already has a sneaky good handle and is a decent passer. Adding a consistent outside shot would pair nicely with those skills. A rebounding machine who is also a threat on the perimeter would be highly coveted around the league. The Cavs have a history of helping players with their outside shot so maybe there’s some hope for Drummond.
As it stands now, I believe Drummond’s value to the Cavs is in his large expiring contract. However, that could all change depending on how next season plays out.