The Cavaliers’ defensive woes will likely get worse before they get better. That seems impossible, considering Cleveland ranks 27th in the league in defensive rating (109.8 on NBA.com), but it’s probably going to be the case.
That is because the Cavaliers are going to be without their best defender for a bit, as Iman Shumpert sits out with knee soreness and will be evaluated in “5-7 days.”
Normally, you’d say the Cavs would be fine without Shumpert. I mean, this is a player who the organization seemed eager to move this summer but failed to find someone willing to just eat his salary. However, this season, with the turnover on the roster and so many new, aging faces entering the lineup, Shumpert is a critical backcourt piece in keeping Cleveland even marginally respectable on that end of the floor.
Shumpert is the only player on the Cavs that averages more than 10 minutes per game (he plays 18.2) with a defensive rating under 106 with a robust 95.1 rating (the next lowest is somehow Dwyane Wade at 106.4). Cleveland’s defensive rating skyrockets to 117.0 (!!!) when Shumpert is not on the floor, which would be nearly four full points worse per 100 possessions than Minnesota, currently the league’s worst defense by a wide margin.
Tyronn Lue, LeBron James, and the rest of the Cavs insist things will be fine in Cleveland, because it’s only October (almost November now!). They’re probably right in the grand scheme of things, as in, they’re not missing the playoffs or anything truly disastrous, but there are real questions and concerns to be had. Without Shumpert, the Cavs could manage to look worse on defense than they already do.