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Cavaliers attempt to shore up frontcourt by acquiring Timofey Mozgov

Photo Credit: FanSided.com

Photo Credit: FanSided.com

With Anderson Varejao out for the season, Lebron James hurting and the Cleveland Cavaliers scuffling, general manager David Griffin felt it was time to make some moves. First, the Cavaliers sent Dion Waiters packing in order to acquire Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith in a three-way trade with the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder. Cleveland also received a protected first-round pick in the deal from Oklahoma City, and the Cavaliers turned around and flipped that pick and an additional first-rounder to the Denver Nuggets for center Timofey Mozgov.

Cleveland had been trying to pry Mozgov away from Denver for quite some time, and getting that extra pick from the Thunder was the extra piece the Cavaliers needed for the Nuggets to finally give in. Trading away two firsts was a steep price to pay for Cleveland, but they badly needed help in the frontcourt and they aren’t exactly playing for the future. They’re trying to win now.

The Cavaliers have struggled for much of the year, and things are really ugly at the moment. Cleveland is just 19-17 and in danger of falling below the Milwaukee Bucks in the standings. Having James out of the lineup is obviously a huge problem, but it’s not like the Cavaliers were world beaters with him in there either.

The biggest issue has been the defense, as Cleveland ranks in the bottom 10 in terms of defensive efficiency, per NBA.com. Many people suspected the defense would be a problem going into the season, but I’m not sure many expected it to be quite this bad. James has slipped on the defensive end and Shawn Marion is on the decline, leaving no high-level wing defenders. The acquisition of Shumpert should help that, although he’s still battling an injury and has been inconsistent on that end despite a lot of potential.

Even more damaging has been the pathetic defense around the rim. The Cavaliers are the third-worst team in the league in terms of protecting the rim, ahead of just the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings, per NBA.com.  Kevin Love has never been a good rim protector, and while Varejao has never been elite at it, he was still an active big body who could at least provide some semblance of defense at the rim. Tristan Thompson is improving, but he couldn’t do it alone.

Insert Mozgov, a legit seven-footer who should help Cleveland’s poor rim protection. Mozgov has allowed 48.6 percent shooting at the rim this season, per SportVU, a solid mark and much better than the 59.0 percent Love has allowed.

Who knows if these deals will save Cleveland. The hole is deep right now and there are four other really good teams to contend with in the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Bulls have overtaken the Cavaliers for best odds to win the East, according to Bovada, and the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards are all strong foes.

But at the very least, these deals will make Cleveland better, although Smith didn’t score a single point in his Cavaliers debut on Wednesday night. Final judgments will be reserved for when everybody is back healthy and they get a chance to play together.

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