Synergy Sports: Breaking down the Cavaliers per possession this season

Synergy Sports is a scouting tool used in the NBA to evaluate individual players and teams. The Synergy Sports system completely and thoroughly breaks down every possession, and play, in an exhaustive attempt to dictate tendencies and highlight who does what best, essentially. There’s more to it than that, but those are the broad-strokes.
In my downtime at Wednesday’s game, when I wasn’t sitting next to little kids in media row watching the 12-point loss to the Pistons, I poured through the Cavaliers Synergy report for the first 47 games of this season. Not including last night’s game, here is some of that data.

According to Synergy Sports, the percentage of times the Cavaliers ran each of the following Offensive Play Types for this season breakdown like this:

The Cavaliers were in Spot Up situations for 20.9% of the 5,034 total offensive possessions they’ve had through the first 47 games. They’ve been in Pick and Roll Situations with the ball handler shooting 13.9% of the time, Transition 12.9%, Isolation 9.3%, Cutting situations 9.1%, Miscellaneous sets 7.6%, Post-Up 6.9% of the time, shooting off Put Backs 6.8%, P&R where the pick man is shooting 6.5%, shooting Off Screens 3.2%, shooting off a Hand Off 1.9%, and for the other 1% of the time the video was not available. 

So to be clear, those situations or offensive play types describe the action that preceded the shot. Daniel Gibson spotted up before attempting a field goal. Alonzo Gee was in Isolation, Kyrie Irving was shooting off a pick and roll situation where he was the primary ball handler, and so on.

From there, the Cavaliers most successful play types are charted on a points per possession basis (PPP), and assigned a rating with respect to the rest of the League.

The Cavs rated out as Excellent on Hand Off Play types, scoring 89 points on 95 possessions for a PPP of .937, ranking them 4th in the NBA, as well as in Transition. The Hand Off sample size was pretty small though obviously, but the Transition Play Type was a respectable number. In Transition for 650 possessions this season, the Cavaliers scored 752 points, and have a PPP of 1.157, which ranks them 8th in the NBA, with a rating of Very Good. Scouting the Cavaliers, a coach might use this and say don’t let them get out and run. Try to get the Cavaliers instead into a half-court Cutting, or Post-Up Play Type where they rank 30th as a team with respect to the League, and have ratings of Poor.  The Cavs have scored 470 points off 457 possessions in Cutting Play Types, and 337 points off 344 possessions in Post-Up Play Types.

On the Defensive side, the Cavaliers have a rating of Poor defending the following Play Types: Spot Up, Post-Up, P&R Ball Handler, Cutting, Miscellaneous, and P&R Roll Man. In some ways that could read: feel free to do whatever you’d like against the Cavaliers on offense if you’re prepping for a game, but in other ways you can see how a team might look at this and decided to Pick and Roll the Cavaliers to death. Not to say it’s as simple as looking at this sheet, but the data does support the fact that the Cavaliers do not defend the P&R well in anyway. Watching them on television does too though I guess.

Individually, back to the offensive side, Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao are the only players to rate in the category of Very Good overall. Anderson has a total of 271 points on 294 possessions, and Kyrie Irving has 801 points on 838 possessions. Antawn Jamison checks out as Good overall with 842 points on 926 possessions, and so does Alonzo Gee with 504 points on 559 possessions.

Kyrie Irving’s overall run down, with the respect to each play type, is as follows as well: Spot Up (Cavaliers were in that play type 1053 possessions) and Irving has a PPP of 1 or Very Good (80 pts on 80 poss). P&R Ball Handler (702 poss as a team) KI’s PPP is .83 or Very Good (259 points on 312 possessions).  Transition Irving is Average with a PPP of 1.108 on 139 possessions, Iso he’s Excellent with a PPP of 1.063 on 127 possessions, Cut he’s Below Average with a PPP of 1.028 on 36 possessions, Offensive Rebounds he’s actually Average, coming off screens he’s Excellent, and handoffs he also Excellent as well.

If you have any questions on anything else I didn’t mention feel free to let me know. There’s an infinite amount of information here, it’s pretty fascinating actually, but I just wanted to hit on a few of those highlights.

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine,,, and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.