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LeBron 2.0

By Steve Kerr, Yahoo! Sports
November 23, 2005

For Danny Ferry, the most promising aspect of the Cleveland Cavaliers' 9-2 start is what they have not been doing.

Playing defense.

"We're still trying to figure out what we're doing at the defensive end," the rookie general manager said. "We're getting great effort, but we're just getting to know each other. We're going to get a lot better."

What's intriguing for Ferry is that the team he assembled around LeBron James in the offseason is already very good, especially offensively. The Cavaliers are averaging better than 105 points per game thanks to the stellar play of James and a much-improved supporting cast.

When Ferry took over the team last summer, his goal was to ease the pressure on James by adding shooters and another dynamic playmaker. The shooting came in the form of Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall – both are capable of stretching the defense – while the playmaking has come from Larry Hughes, whose ability to handle the ball and create offense has taken some of the burden off James.

Before, James felt like he had to make every play. Now he can pick and choose his spots while trusting his teammates to carry the load at times. The result is that James has become a much more efficient player. He's shooting 52.6 percent from the floor – over seven percentage points higher than his career average (45.1) – and his turnovers (2.8 per game) are way down.

The Cavaliers are also getting excellent play from center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a low-post force that they can run their offense through. Ilgauskas is scoring 14 points a night and has combined with Drew Gooden and Marshall to make Cleveland the best rebounding team in the East.

Of course, it's early, and Ferry knows that his team's schedule has been relatively easy to this point. The Cavaliers will be tested this week, traveling to Indianapolis to take on the Pacers on Thanksgiving night before facing Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves at home on Saturday.

Ultimately, Cleveland's ability to stop teams at the defensive end will determine how far it can go. First-year coach Mike Brown is a defensive-minded, Gregg-Popovich disciple, and his goal is to bring the team's field-goal percentage defense down to the low 40s, which would be Spurs-like.

Currently, the Cavs are giving up 95 points per game and allowing opponents to shoot 46 percent, but with the ball-hawking abilities of James, Hughes and Eric Snow and a lot of length on the front line, there's no reason why the Cavaliers can't become an excellent defensive club. But they need more time to develop confidence in the system and more trust in each other.

If they do, watch out. The Cavaliers could be on the verge of becoming an elite NBA team with a chance to win a title.
 

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Defense unfortunately still has been an issue for us even though we have two pretty good perimeter defenders in Hughes and SNow. Hughes has actually been very good at defense. The problem is certain PG's we have no answer for as Snow can't keep up with them and our frontcourt players are just slow rotators.

More and more I am getting anxious to see how are defense will look when Anderson can get back. While he's not a great one on one defender, I though Anderson rotated very well last year
 

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To become an elite or even above average defensive team we are going to need Lebron to lead the way. He has the physical tools and ability to turn games around on that side of the ball as well. As they say a team takes on the personality of it's best player.
 

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Benedict_Boozer said:
To become an elite or even above average defensive team we are going to need Lebron to lead the way. He has the physical tools and ability to turn games around on that side of the ball as well. As they say a team takes on the personality of it's best player.
That's true, but IMO the most important defensive position on the court today (besides C, which is dead defensively compared to the last decade) is PG. If you have a capable PG defender who can play at that elite level for 35-40 mpg, you can cut the heads off most NBA offenses, because most NBA offenses let their PG create in the lane. If the opposing PG can't get in the lane easily because the defender is consistently staying in front of him, it's going to bother him and not allow him to get his team into its offense as quickly, eating up shot clock seconds and ultimiately putting more pressure on other players on his team to create offense more quickly.

Additionaly, transition defense starts with the PG, always has and always will. Easy buckets in transition can really kill momentum, something that I think isn't understood well by many NBA players. Easy buckets really do kill spirit thereby swinging momentum to the opposing team. If you have a quick, long, and capable defender getting back on D you've won half the battle. Unfortunately Snow is getting long in the tooth and can only defend a certain amount of minutes, and as I said coming into the season Damon is a complete matador extreme. Olay!
 
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