By J.M. Poulard

Fresh off their road win in New Orleans Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors (14-21) will host the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-27) tonight. Unlike the previous two seasons, the Cavs did not come into this campaign looking to compete for a title. Instead, they are now a team in transition trying to make all their parts fit.

On offense, the Cavaliers average 94.0 points per game (26th in the NBA) on a dreadful 42.9% field goal shooting (29th in the NBA). The Cavs have a myriad of problems on offense that prevent them from being an efficient scoring team. Although they do an excellent job protecting the ball as evidenced by their 13.5 turnovers per game (third best in the league), they do not maximize their possessions. The one thing that stands out when watching this Cleveland team is their propensity to fire away contested jump shots.

Indeed, they run a few sets that gets their guards the ball coming off of screens on the sidelines; where they seem to catch and shoot or simply just catch, dribble a few times and then fire away. Also, they run a few pick and pops that result in Antawn Jamison taking shots from deep. Granted, Jamison is a capable shooter; but given the fact that the team already has players that are more than willing to shoot it from the perimeter; one would expect to see him on the block a little more to get easy baskets.

According to Hoopdata, Cleveland averages 21.1 shots at the rim (21st in the NBA) but only converts 60.0% of those shots (27th in the league) because they lack the finishers necessary to make shots in traffic. Consequently, they only produce 36.6 points per game in the paint (22nd in the association). Mind you, a team incapable of scoring in the paint does not absolutely translate into a bad offensive team as long as they are able to make shots from other areas on the court. But in the Cavaliers’ case, making shots from spots on the floor is exactly their problem. Have a look below:

Shot location FG% NBA rank
10 feet or less 40.5 7
10 to 15 feet 34.3 28
16 to 23 feet 38.1 18
3PT range 34.1 23

Although they do shoot a very high percentage from less than 10 feet, they only shoot 12.9 shots from that distance (14th most in the NBA) whereas the majority of their shots attempts come from other spots on the floor. In addition, the Cavaliers only average 9.1 offensive rebounds per game (28th in the league) which means they normally miss shots and then immediately have to sprint back on defense. This is an important stat because teams that miss a lot of shots typically have the opportunity to rebound some of their misses and score right at the basket (example: Minnesota). However, because the Cavaliers are a poor shooting and offensive rebounding team, they struggle to put up points.

Now with that said, when Cleveland executes their offense they are able to generate some open shots. And given the fact that they are a jump shooting team; if they catch an opponent on a day that their shots are going in, they can pose problems for their opposition. However, those instances do not seem to come with much frequency.

On defense, Cleveland surrenders 103.2 points per game (23rd in the NBA) on a red hot 47.6% field goal shooting (27th in the league). The Cavs do a great job of clogging the lane and defending big men thanks in large part to Anderson Varejao. He is extremely help conscious, does a solid job of defending big men and helping in pick and roll defense. As a result, Cleveland limits opponents to 38.3 points per game in the paint (10th in the association). As good as the Cavaliers are at defending the paint though, they are subpar in defending the rest of the court.

When watching them play, they give the impression that Moondog (their mascot) could score a few baskets against them because of their undersized perimeter players. Further compounding the problem, their perimeter players are not good defenders. Consequently, they tend to get posted up and get beat off the dribble thus resulting in open shots.

The Cavaliers are dead last in defending the three point shot as they allow teams to make 41.9% of their shots from downtown. Just how bad is that shooting figure? Put this into perspective: the Warriors are the best three point shooting team in the league at 40.1% from deep. In essence, every team becomes the best shooting team in the league from downtown when they play Cleveland given the fact they allow such modest shooting numbers.

If the Warriors guards can take advantage of the Cavs backcourt, they should be able to open up the floor and allow teammates to get open shots. The Dubs should also be able to attack the boards against Cleveland and get second shot opportunities.

Cleveland game notes: Anthony Parker (back) is listed as day to day while Daniel Gibson (ankle) will miss at least the team’s upcoming five game road trip.

Golden State game notes: Andris Biedrins (ankle) returned to the lineup Wednesday night, playing 13 minutes against New Orleans.

J.M. Poulard is a part time contributor for Warriors World and you can follow him on Twitter under the handle name ShyneIV.