Regardless on your feelings on any of the players that were involved in this trade (Dion for being a knucklehead who thinks he's better than Kyrie, J.R. Smith for being a cocky-sonnova-bitch with knucklehead tendencies, or Mozgov for being tall, or the right answer---Iman Shumpert for his dope ass hightop fade) these were moves that were warranted, and possibly even necessary to save the season.
While the players that came to the Cavs in both of these trades might not be anything that would classify the moves as "blockbuster moves", the pieces that are coming back might be just what this team needs to sure up some of the details that the team has been lacking (particularly on the defensive end).
The Cavs currently have the sixth-highest offensive rating in the league, but are down to the 9th worst defensive rating as well as giving up the 6th worst effective field goal percentage. This team isn't clicking well enough on offense (though it will by the playoffs) to outperform the defensive deficiencies. Probably the most glaring flaw (that we all saw coming into the season) is that the Cavs have the second worst opponent FG% at the rim, giving up a startling 56.2% . For some context, Minnesota is the worst in the league with 56.5% and the Pacers are the best at 47.8%.
Obviously the ability to bother shots inside, either with physical presence or by blocking shots, has been entirely lacking for the Cavs so far. Were we really expecting Love, Tristan, and Varejao to be able to form a wall around the basket though? The best we were hoping for from that front-line was adequacy (and aside from TT, we really didn't even get close to that). Having additional help on the perimeter to prevent opponents from getting to the hoop would have helped as well, but unfortunately, that has also been completely lackluster outside of Kyrie's occasional aptitude for shutting down an opposing PG and LeBron deciding to try on defense.
Now that we've identified our key aspects of the team that needed improvement (perimeter defense, interior defense, size) and realize that Waiters really wasn't bringing much to the table on the offensive end, let's get into the stats.
- Timofey Mozgov as a replacement for Anderson Varejao.
- J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert as replacements for Dion Waiters.
Basically, the minutes distribution will be very similar overall, with Mozgov getting most of Varejao's former minutes and with one of Smith or Shumpert getting Dion's primary minutes, while the other getting precious time off the bench, which this team has direly needed.
Let's go to Mozgov replacing Varejao first:
The scary number that might jump out at first will be the drastic PER difference. Mozgov has a PER of 13.9, which is lower than the theoretical average of 15, while Andy puts up a shockingly strong 17.6. It's true that Mozgov isn't nearly as good of a complete player as Anderson, but that isn't what this team needs right now. What the comparison boils down to is that Varejao is much better on the offensive side of the ball: scoring, assisting baskets, taking care of the ball, shooting. But the Cavs have that in the big three.
This team needs a rim protector, and while Mozgov may not be the best in the league, he's more than adequate, and a solid 7'1". with a 3.5% block percentage, as well as slightly better rebounding, we can most likely rely on Mozgov to be a solid improvement from the defensive front. As an added bonus, Mozgov will most likely have a very limited offensive role, relying almost entirely on putting back shots and grabbing rebounds, which should simplify the roles for the rest of the team and open up some more shots for Love.
First thing to note, on a team that was void of much talent outside of Melo and a washed up Amare, both Smith and Shumpert were taking less shots per-100 possessions than Waiters was with a team consisting of Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love. Second, Shumpert and Smith both have higher assist numbers and percentages than Waiters. Instantly, the offense might improve so that we're not having to see Waiters shrugging off passing the ball to LeBron.
On the other side of the ball, strictly from the statistics there's more or less a wash defensively with this trade-off. While Shumpert is known as a fairly good defender, the stats don't quite back it up, as he's theoretically the same or worse than Dion. It's important to note though that, being on an absolutely terrible Knicks team most likely made it difficult to put up good defensive numebers, especially when no one else on the team is trying on defense.
The Cavs did bring one extra aspect back with these trades that probably pushes them over the top though...