Heading into the new season, the Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly want to push the pace more, per Donovan Mitchell and via Evan Dammarell of Right Down Euclid. Doing so could open up some easier looks and create advantage situations in games for Cleveland, and transition offense can get guys going, and the team can feed off of quality shots in odd-man situations.
Last year, the Cavaliers played at the slowest pace in the NBA, and it led to some stagnation for stretches for the group.
Now, Cleveland did generate their share of turnovers defensively, and the Cavaliers did have the league’s best defensive rating in the regular season, and it’s not as if they were out of sync as their default setting. The Wine and Gold had 51 wins last year, and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference.
Despite those things, Cleveland was bogged down in the playoffs in their loss to the New York Knicks in the first round, and going into this coming year, it’s sensible for the Cavs to be stressing getting up and down more. Cleveland is also reportedly emphasizing for the team to have more man and ball movement in their offense, so it’s natural for them to want to have more urgency in their offense. That’d be logical to utilize offseason additions such as Max Strus and Georges Niang as shooters, too.
All of that said, while the Cavaliers are wanting to push more, and that not just meaning they’re going to be jacking up shots, it’s still evident Cleveland needs to clean up on the defensive glass. The Cavs were inconsistent as a defensive rebounding team last year.
Cleveland went out and added Max Strus via sign-and-trade, and signed Georges Niang in free agency, and they signed Ty Jerome for more depth and some shooting. Those pieces should make a difference for the Cavaliers being more diverse in offense, both in set play and for opening up driving lanes in the transition game.
As was mentioned, however, it is still clear the Cavs need to improve on the defensive glass. In order to fully take advantage of trying to get out and run more to produce early offensive looks, regardless of them wanting to have urgency after opponent makes, Cleveland must be more on-point in that aspect.
Last regular season, Cleveland was just 20th in defensive rebounding percentage, and the Cavaliers were routinely killed by offensive boards in their five-game series loss to the Knicks.
The bigs for Cleveland could improve in that area game-to-game with their positioning, when Jarrett Allen is healthy in that sense, but guys like Strus, Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert have to help Cleveland’s defensive rebounding positioning as well. When they’re out there, that would aid in the Cavs’ efforts to close out possessions, and not concede opponents kicking out to potentially open shooters when the defense is scrambled.
What could make a positive impact for Cleveland would be having Dean Wade receive some regular run, as his length and team feel can help, and in the same light, he runs the floor well, just as many of those aforementioned players do.
Granted, he’s not set for a sizeable role this coming season with Cleveland, but Tristan Thompson could give Cleveland’s rebounding efforts a boost for spurts as well, as an aside. He’s always been reliable in that area.
Anyway, in a general sense, though the Cavs are in the right to attempt to play quicker, and they need to, to make themselves less predictable, one of their blemishes defensively last season was defensive rebounding. They still have to ensure they’re closing out defensive possessions, and that will include helping the bigs, who alter shots so often for Cleveland, too.
One would assume the Cavs will continue to stress finding that medium, in any case. If Cleveland can do that, provided his handle has improved, maybe Evan Mobley functioning as a grab-and-go big will play out some in his third season, which could boost his own and the team’s offense.
It’ll be fun to watch if that sort of wrinkle plays out in this 2023-24 campaign, which will begin on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at the Brooklyn Nets.