Out of the 30 teams in the National Basketball Association, the Cleveland Cavaliers ranked 27th in defense, giving up 103.4 points per game – tied with the Phoenix Suns. And to make matters worse, they have allowed their opponents to shoot over 50 percent from the field. These defensive problems have caused the Cavs to start the season off 2-5, losing the past three contests.
After the first weeks of the season, the defense has improved by creating turnovers the offense needs. They have shot up to second in the league in opponent’s turnovers, creating 18.1 per game. But the Cavs haven’t been able to cash in on the turnovers because on their abysmal team free throw percentage – but that’s a different story.
Dion Waiters has gotten huge praise in his first seven games of his rookie season, averaging over 15 points, something he didn’t do at Syracuse. Another thing he never did at Syracuse was play in a man-to-man defense. By playing under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse meant you played in an intense 2-3 defensive zone. The inability of playing man-to-man defense has hurt Waiters and his team.
Last week, Waiters started the week with a buzz by scoring 28 points against the Los Angeles Clippers and found himself on the bench by the end of the week against the Thunder. The team said Waiters has been suffering from a lingering deep thigh bruise, which cut his minutes down on Sunday.
As I saw the hot shooting Daniel Gibson take Waiter’s minutes, I couldn’t help but wonder if his knee problem was what was keeping Waiters off the court. Has the first coach Scott-Dion Waiters problem occurred? Will Waiters continue to see him minutes get diminished until he learns to play on both sides of the floor?
But you can’t just point the finger at one player. It is a team effort giving up 103.4 points a game.
There have been few bright spots for the Cavaliers on defense. Anderson Varejao puts forward all he has when he is on the court, especially on defense. Along with Varejao, Alonzo Gee has stepped up and takes the responsibility of defending the opponent’s best scorer. But as you can tell with game results, just because two players play good defense, doesn’t mean you’re going to win games.
I expect improvement in the defense to happen when the Cavs return home from their road trip on Saturday. Coach Scott can’t be happy with the team’s defensive performance and have to be addressing this problem everyday in practice.
By benching Waiters I believe Coach Scott is sending a message not just to Waiters, but to the whole team. Running up and down the court shooting treys does not guarantee you playing time. I respect Scott’s sternness, but hope this doesn’t become back-to-back fire in his face.