You’re not going to have a better summer than the Cleveland Cavaliers had. They got the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft (thank you lottery gods) and parlayed that into LeBron James and Kevin Love joining newly maxed-out Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers are suddenly clear title contenders.
But there are questions, almost all of them on the defensive side of the ball. Specifically, who is going to protect the paint. Anderson Varejao is a quality pick-and-roll defender as big men go (when healthy) but he’s not a rim protector. We know Kevin Love isn’t. Brendan Haywood? Tristan Thompson? Nah.
It’s not just me with these concerns, it’s their own GM. David Griffin was on Fox Sports Radio and was honest about that and what he expects of Love on the defensive end, as tweeted by Andy Greder, who covers the Timberwolves for the Pioneer Press.
He doesn’t have concerns about Love not making a defensive rotation because he doesn’t want to give up good rebounding position? He should. Unless Love is changing his stripes.
Rim protection is going to be an issue against the elite teams. Chicago has it and the Cavaliers are going to need it against them in the East if Derrick Rose and his slashing game return to form. They are certainly going to need it against the ball movement in San Antonio, or the slashing of Russell Westbrook and how the Thunder get to the rim, or the lob-city attack of the Clippers with Chris Paul.
Elite teams get easy buckets, getting them at the rim and generation open looks from the perimeter (ideally three). Then they knock them down. If you can’t defend that, you can’t win a ring.
That will be the Cavaliers biggest challenge. Griffin knows it.