It may be a limited sample size, but the Cavs have shown immediate improvement in two straight games with Iman Shumpert back from missing 21 straight after a wrist injury. The biggest improvement has been defense, and Shumpert’s return had it coming.
Coming off a 35-point blowout over the Orlando Magic, the Cavs recorded a season high 20 forced turnovers. When James and Shumpert are on court together, the Cavs average 1.5 steals more than their opponent every 100 possessions (Basketball Reference). Without question, defense that holds a team like Boston – who gave Golden State and San Antonio all they can handle – to 31 points in a half is a difference maker.
On Tuesday, James made a remarkable comparison to Iman Shumpert:
“He probably has the best hands in the NBA along with Kawhi Leonard, as far as defensively.”
James, who has struggled to get through to his teammates about their energy levels and defensive mindset, praises Shumpert for what he brings to that end of the floor:
“He just plays, it’s just very, very good basketball. His energy level is at an all-time high; he doesn’t go below 100, which is incredible. He brings something fierce, a competitive nature to our team.”
The two seem to have a pact on defense, working together on a mission to lock down:
“We take that side of the floor, I mean, that’s the most important side of the floor that me and Iman take. We talk to each other, saying let’s see who can get the most stops in a quarter, let’s see who can get the most stops in a game. So we’re competing against each other on the floor, defensively.” – LeBron James
David Yapkowitz ·
Shumpert left Tuesday’s contest again Boston due to a groin injury, and while he’ll likely miss Thursday’s nationally televised clash with the Thunder, the defensive specialist shouldn’t worry about anything serious:
Shumpert probably won't play Thursday vs OKC, but #Cavs don't believe it's as severe as last season's groin injury
— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) December 16, 2015