Cleveland Cavaliers Defense: The Timofey Mozgov Effect


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In today’s NBA you’ll be hard pressed to find an offense that runs through a traditional back to the basket center. So much on offense is made of stretching the floor with shooters and creating lanes for driving guards and forwards. This cannot be said for the other side of the ball. Championship caliber defenses still utilize a big bruiser. Without one, the flood gates open (and good luck trying to close them). A big 7 footer can do wonders to a below average defensive team. Case in point: the Cleveland Cavaliers and Timofey Mozgov.

Mozgov has added something special to the Cavs defense.  The defensive numbers since his acquisition are much improved. When you look how Cleveland improved in some major defensive categories since Mozgov arrived, his impact is quite impressive.

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I know that all of these improvements cannot be attributed to Mozgov alone. They also added Iman Shumpert, who is an elite perimeter defender.

Head coach David Blatt also has made some adjustments to how the team guards pick and rolls.

The Mozgov trade has transitioned the Cavaliers from the bottom half in these categories to the upper half. The new Cavs defensive philosophy is all about forcing drivers to the baseline, away from the paint. They are able to do this because of the presence of Mozgov.

All of the elite defensive teams have a rim protector. Think of guys like Roy Hibbert, Tiago Splitter, Joakim Noah and Rudy Gobert.

His impact is felt when he leaves the court too. When Mozgov is off the floor, the at the rim field goal percentage raises about 6%. The team defensive rating raises about five points as well. Mozgov’s presence helps elevate the other Cavaliers bigs when on the floor with him. Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson might not protect the rim very well when paired together but when they have Mozgov with them their defense picks up. Mozgov’s personal numbers gone up too. Since his first game with the “wine and gold” on January 9th “Timo” is averaging a career best 10.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.

There could be an argument that he has been the most important player this year in Cleveland. Before you call me all kinds of names I said not the most valuable ( that goes to LeBron James of course), I said the most important. There is a difference.

Mozgov has helped spark the NBA’s hottest team and come playoff time he will become even more of an asset when the possessions shorten and it becomes a half court game. Against the likes of say a Toronto Raptors squad who likes to drive and get to the free throw line, clogging the paint will be vital. Force those types of teams to take long jumpers.

The east is filled with those types of players. They could be facing players like Derrick Rose, Kemba Walker, DeMar DeRozan, and John Wall.

While Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love get the headlines there’s no denying that the Mozgov effect is taking the Cavaliers to the next level.

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