Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown was brought in for the purpose of bringing hard work and defensive proficiency to a young Cleveland team that had lacked both under former coach Byron Scott.
Through the first seven games of the 2013-14 season, there is ample evidence suggesting that the Cavaliers have bought into the coach’s message. The team’s defensive rating, which measures the amount of points a team gives up per 100 possessions, ranks eighth in the NBA. If this number were to hold, it would present a significant improvement from last season’s rank of 27th.
The young Cavaliers’ new defensive acumen passes the eye test as well. Tristan Thompson has been up and down offensively but appears to have taken a significant step toward being an elite defender. He has had success slowing down Kevin Love and David West in early-season matchups. His perimeter defending in particular has been impressive.
But the improved defense extends to the perimeter as well, where Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving have both shown intensity and effort previously absent from their respective games. Irving and Waiters, and the Cavaliers as a whole, are far from a finished product defensively, but the early signs are positive.
There is still work to be done and adjustments to be made. The Cavaliers want both long- and short-term success. Here are some things Mike Brown can fix or emphasize to put Cleveland in the best position to win games, now and in the future.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.