2. Stellar Team Defense
Prior to the acquisitions of Mozgov, Shumpert, and surprisingly, Smith, the Cavs’ defense was a joke. The trio of Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, and Anderson Varejao wasn’t cutting it inside the paint, and the Cavs had a defensive rating good for dead last in the league.
Ever since the midseason acquisitions, the Cavs have posted a defensive rating (pts allowed per 100 possessions) of 103.9 as opposed to previously, when they allowed 109.5. Mozgov has single-handedly made a huge defensive impact as he is allowing opponents to shoot just 45.5% at the rim, while sending back 1.6 shots per game.
Not to mention the defensive intensity that Love, Kyrie Irving, and Smith have shown since the All-Star break. Love no longer seems to be a defensive liability when on the court and the team is posting a +9.8 rating with Love on the court. In addition, Irving has defended his opponents with much more intensity, shutting down the likes of Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, and Damian Lillard. Prior to the midseason trade, Irving was allowing opponents to shoot 44.5% against him, now opponents are shooting just 42.7% from the field against him.
Next: Championship-Worthy Offense