Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 11/18/14
In this Cavaliers film room session, we’ll break down the Cavaliers’ defense, focusing on what happens when the opposing team’s point guard gets into the paint. Over the first eight games of the season, the defense was atrocious. Starring in that atrocity was star point guard Kyrie Irving’s sieve-like qualities when it comes to staying in front of his man, fighting through pick-and-rolls, and making an attempt to stop transition buckets. As dynamic and All-Star quality as Irving is on offense, his defense leaves plenty to be desired. Let’s dive in and look at some proof of Kyrie’s issues. For an example of the wine and gold’s struggles in the transition game, let’s look at the halftime bucket for Dallas. After a Tristan Thompson follow-up slam, the Mavs get a quick outlet out to Dominic Jones up the left sideline.   The Cavaliers do have enough players back with Irving, Varejao, and Gee. However, Kyrie is not in a good defensive stance at all, and Jones zips right by him. Varejao, who is used to showing and helping on Kyrie’s man, is a little too far out. By the time he gets to Jones, the Mavericks guard is able to rise up and finish over top of the outstretched Andy before the horn sounds.     At the start of the second half, here again we have another mistake from Kyrie in transition. After Waiters misses a three-pointer from the right wing, the rebound goes long, Shawn Marion grabs the ball, and he starts a three-on-two fastbreak with Collison and Mayo. Kyrie apparently doesn’t realize that Dion has rotated back to cover deep after his missed shot because Irving treats it as a 2-on-1 and runs back to Collison after Marion passes the ball. Collison quickly tosses it back to Marion, who goes to the hole, gets fouled weakly by Irving, and scores the basket.   OK, you guys get the picture on what bad transition D looks like from the Cavs, but here’s one scenario when it was perfect. Let’s look to early in the Dallas game, with Darren Collison pushing the ball (without numbers, you’ll notice). Here, it’s clear that Waiters and not Irving is in best position to pick up Collison. Kyrie does the right thing and accounts for Dion’s man (O.J. Mayo) on the wing. Notice how Waiters goes out to meet Collison at the foul line. He’s in a great wide defensive stance, ready to take a charge if needed. Dion holds his ground, and it never even comes to that as Collison crumbles in front of him without even getting off a shot.     Here is a pick-and-roll scenario gone wrong. This is from early in the fourth quarter. Darren Collison and Chris Kaman have been playing the two-man game on this possession, and it’s their second attempt at a pick-and-roll. After fighting through the first attempt by going under on the pick, Kyrie gets picked and picked well by Kaman. Tyler Zeller shows, but he doesn’t come out far enough to contain Collison’s penetration. The result as you will see below is Collison zooming past Zeller into the paint. Varejao has to leave Marion, who winds up with the ball for a short shot at the charge circle, despite Gibson’s best effort to defend. So, in this case, we had two defenders (Varejao and Gibson) who did their job rotating, but it still did not matter because of Kyrie going under the screen against Collison who would rather drive and Zeller not showing enough to slow the dribble drive.     If it was a certainty that Kyrie did not have the tools to defend, like Mo Williams for example, then you would adjust your expectations and live with it. However, I don’t think that’s the case here with an athletic 20-year-old. I think it’s a combination of Scott not focusing Kyrie’s effort on that end and not holding him accountable enough. When Kyrie gets back in four weeks time, let’s hope he can work to improve on the defensive end. That’s it for this week, folks! Until next time, the film room is closed!
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