3 reasons the Cavs have been hurting with a key player sidelined

J.B. Bickerstaff, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
J.B. Bickerstaff, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images /
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Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics and Dean Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images /

3 reasons Cavs are hurting without Dean Wade: Perimeter Defense

The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the league’s best defenses, and in particular their interior defense is elite. Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley form one of the most formidable rim protection pairings in the league, right there with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez in Milwaukee. Yet their perimeter defense is another story.

Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland have been locked in defensively for most of the season, but that just means they have clawed their way up to below average. Neither has the size to truly impact plays, and they aren’t true ballhawks. Mitchell in particular has had a few highlight blocks, but overall they aren’t the players to check dynamic scoring wings.

That task goes to Dean Wade, the team’s best perimeter defender by a significant margin. He has the size and strength to battle with burlier forwards, but his savvy basketball IQ and quick response time mitigates his lack of foot speed and allows him to slow down faster wings as well. Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler; Wade is ready for all of them.

Wade’s absence hurt the Cavs a lot. Caris LeVert was not able to hold the line for the Cavs, and Isaac Okoro doesn’t have the size and strength to guard players much larger than himself. Lamar Stevens has been inserted into the starting lineup because head coach J.B. Bickerstaff needed a perimeter defender from somewhere. If Wade was healthy, one assumes he would have received the nod. The Cavs’ biggest weakness is perimeter defense, a weakness that is mostly addressed when Wade is available.