The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA right now. While their recent defensive struggles can be attributed to a lot of factors, some analysts believe it primarily stems from the guard positions, which were said to be severely weakened by Kyrie Irving’s departure.
Cleveland received Isaiah Thomas from the Boston Celtics in the blockbuster trade that sent Irving to the TD Garden last summer. Expectations were high that the 5-foot-9 floor general would seamlessly replace Irving in the Cavs’ scheme of things, but in seven games so far, Thomas is evidently a downgrade at the position, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
Meanwhile, starting shooting guard J.R. Smith has also declined defensively. Gone are the days when head coach Tyronn Lue had repeatedly praised him for his defense on the opposing team’s best scorer.
Referring to the Cavs’ 148-124 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night, Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor said that Smith “kept getting lost got coming off screens.” Fedor also opined that Smith’s defense “has taken a massive step back” from what it was known before.
With the Cavs failing to close the gap between them and the Eastern Conference’s top two teams (the Celtics and Toronto Raptors) in the standings, rumors abound that a big trade could happen in the next couple of weeks.
One of the latest suggested trades that the Cavaliers could make to “fix” their current problems is a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. Complex’s Zach Frydenlund proposed a scenario that would move C.J. McCollum and Al-Farouq Aminu to Cleveland in exchange for Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, and Channing Frye.
Aside from instantly improving the Cavs’ defense if he becomes a starter, McCollum would also provide the team much-needed firepower, one that Smith could not deliver at the moment. McCollum is known as a “dynamic scorer” who can help end the Cavs’ current “offensive slump,” Frydenlund noted.
Meanwhile, Aminu, who presently starts for the Blazers, would more likely come off the bench as a reliable wing defender.
SB Nation’s Blazer’s Edge reported that veteran NBA analyst Marc Stein had predicted the possibility of a Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum split this year. The blog cited Stein as saying that Portland’s unbalanced roster would be the main reason why the Blazers might decide to trade either Lillard or McCollum soon.
Stein first acknowledged that the Blazers actually “don’t want to trade either one” of their two starting guards, but they could be forced to go down that path to prevent the squad from depending too much on their backcourt. The analyst then said that between the two, the team would “most likely” trade McCollum.