Cleveland Cavaliers: Two key team defensive goals in 2020-21

Cleveland Cavaliers wing Kevin Porter Jr. defends on-ball. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers wing Kevin Porter Jr. defends on-ball. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

Goal #1 for the Cleveland Cavaliers team defense in 2020-21: Ranking 16th or better in restricted area opponent makes/hit rate

We all know that Cavs gave up too many easy buckets last season, and the likes of Darius Garland, Cedi Osman and to an extent Kevin Love/others didn’t help in that regard.

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Garland needs to get stronger to help deter drives to the basket, and it’s evident that a fair amount going forward, given Collin Sexton and him are both 6-foot-1, they’ll likely be staggered in stretches of games.

Sexton, though, while his team defense does need to improve, did do a better job individually last season, which was a positive sign.

Hopefully in 2020-21, we’ll see Osman eventually play less defensively against starting caliber wings, as his lack of lateral quickness led to him conceding too many baskets near the rim, and Cleveland’s help behind that was spotty.

In that realm, that’s why I’d imagine the Cavs could draft Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, for his wing defensive capability or Florida State’s Patrick Williams, who should also be a really switchable defender.

Anyhow, the first defensive goal for the Cavs for next season to me is placing 16th or better in opponent restricted area makes and efficiency. This past season, Cleveland gave up the most opponent field goals per game in the restricted area, and they conceded the second-highest shooting clip in that zone, per’s opponent shooting data.

They need to do a better job of containing against dribble penetration/be more crisp with stunting to drivers in a controlled way and provide more resistance near the basket. Andre Drummond being reportedly likely to pick up his $28.8 million player option should help in that regard, though, as could Okoro/Williams as helpers, too.

Or if the Cavs ended up selecting USC’s Onyeka Okongwu, who could potentially be a Drummond replacement down the road, he could help in that way, too, given his great team defensive instincts. Okongwu had 2.7 blocks per game in 2019-20, per Sports Reference.

If the Cavaliers provide more resistance near the rim defensively next season and give up less back-breaking lay-ups throughout stretches of games, even if that means a bit more opponent three-point attempts, it would likely help their chances. It’d be ideal if rotations to shooters can get there more so, of course.

Cleveland needs to wall up better near the basket, though, as one of the big points of emphasis. What is coincided with that is being more sound defensively on the wing to prevent so many interior looks, too, and that might be more crucial even.