Cavaliers will turn to defense to create offense

Versatility has Cavs excited about defensive possibilities

Kyle Lewandowski
September 27, 2018 - 4:22 pm
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports


Independence, OH (92.3 The Fan) - Over the course of the past few seasons the Cavaliers have gone throughout the regular season without showing thier defensive stategies for the postseason due to the fact it was a forgone conclusion they would be participating. This year the Cavs will rely on their defense to help them continue playing beyond game number 82.

Last season the Cavs were at their best defensively when they honed in a switch-everyting mentality, something that didn't surface until the playoffs. During the regualr sesason the team ranked second to last with defensive rating of 109.5. Today at practice the message was switching will show itself early and often in the defensive scheme and the roster sets the team up to showcase it.

"If you look down the roster we have a lot of long, athletic guys that can guard multiple positions," Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson said. "We have a lot of versatility."

Versatility is everything when you think about guards switching onto bigs and vice versa. Players buying into their roles is also a key factor in making defense a priority.

Newly acquired guard David Nwaba is someone who prides himself on his defensive abilities and it is an area where he has found in the NBA. He knows where he is most valuable to this team.

"Just doing what I do and that's defending and looking to push in transition," Nwaba said. "At the same time just doing what I can to help my team win, doing the little things, I have no issue with playing that role and doing it to the best of my abilities."

"It's how I've been all my life, looking to stop the best guy on the opposing team. At the end of the day defense wins games. I take pride in playing defense and I have no issue with playing that role."

Players like Nwaba, George Hill, Larry Nance Jr. and JR Smith who have the ability to switch at virtually anytime along with the mindset to do so allow a team to be more agressive on the defensive end and Thompson says everyone is buying into the strategy.

"I like to play switching every," Thompson said. "That's where our defense is always top-5 in the playoffs and in the regular season we're pretty garbage because we don't show our hand until the playoffs. This year we want to change that. I think guys want to come out and be a team that's top-10 in team defense. That's definitely an expectation of ours and that's something we're trying to achieve."

A jump from 29th in the league in defense to top-10 is a drastic one. Thompson knows it is going to take hard work to obtain the goal he put forth.

"It's going to be baby steps," Thompson said. "Obviously you can't just wake up in the morning and be top-10 in the league in defense. It's going to be step by step. We just have to trust it, trust our coach and watch a lot of film."

Head coach Tyronn Lue gained traction as a coach in the NBA on defensive pricipals while learning under Doc Rivers in Boston and Los Angeles. So far throughout camp, Lue likes what he sees on the defensive end.

"I think we have the versatility to [be a top-10 defense]," Lue said. "We just have to continue to keep harping on defense first and i think we should be able to score some easy baskets with our defesne, getting up the floor, the athleticism we have, the switching versatility. We definitely have to score with our defense."

Good defense turns into easy offense and without a true established playmaker on offense, getting those easy buckets in transition is something the Cavs will have to lean on this season more so than years past. Scoring the basketball is not going to be as easy as giving it to LeBron James and letting him make a play. Lue says to score they have to do it more by committee and it starts on the defensive end.

"I think our bigs have to be an important part of what we're trying to do offensively," Lue said. "Then our guards just playing with pace, attacking the basket, whoever rebounds the basketball is pushing it out. We got a lot of guys who can rebound the basketball and push it."

Over the offseason the Cavs got younger and more athletic and while question marks remain as to how they'll score is seems that running up and down the floor off of defensive intensity will show itself game one.