Cavaliers must compensate for short Garland-Mitchell backcourt | Jeff Schudel

·2 min read

Sep. 17—Adding Donovan Mitchell to Darius Garland gives the Cavaliers a backcourt with dynamic scoring potential. But there is still a problem when it comes to defense. Both players are 6-foot-1, which means on any given night the Cavs guards will be shorter than the opposing guards.

Collin Sexton, sent to the Utah Jazz as partial payment in the Mitchell trade, is also 6-foot-1. The Sexton-Garland combination was exposed as a defensive weakness when they played together.

"I don't think it was a Darius-Collin thing," Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said Sept. 14 at Mitchell's introductory news conference. "The way we're going to be able to protect them with Jarrett and Evan makes a huge difference. It's up to our staff to put together a scheme that can protect those guys. And they have to take steps as well.

"They proved last year they're committed to the defensive end and they're willing to get better at it. As long as we can protect 'em, the offense — they keep track of it on the scoreboard for a reason — we have to make sure we go out and do that."

The Cavaliers have changed philosophies from the days when the Garland-Sexton combination didn't mesh. They morphed into "Tall Ball" last season with 6-foot-11 Jarrett Allen, 7-foot Evan Mobley and 7-foot Lauri Markkanen in the front court. Garland's partner at guard kept changing due to a rash of injuries. Sexton suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 11th game of the 2021-22 season. Ricky Rubio suffered a season-ending knee injury on Dec. 23.

The Cavaliers acquired 35-year-old guard Rajon Rondo from the Lakers on Jan. 3 to replace Rubio, but he played only 21 games for Cleveland with one start. He was listed as inactive 22 times.

The Cavs traded with the Pacers for 6-foot-6 Caris LeVert on Feb. 7. Levert played in four games after the trade and then missed nine games with a sprained foot.

—The Cavaliers must come up with a different starting lineup if they want to continue playing Tall Ball because Markkanen was part of the package sent to Utah in the Mitchell trade.

Kevin Love, 6-foot-8, could resume his role as a starter, but he was very effective last season coming off the bench when he played in 74 games with only four starts. Prior to last season, he started 374 of 375 games as a Cavalier since being acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves in August 2014.