Many in Cavs land are wondering why Kyrie is struggling this year compared to what we expect from him. He's scoring less, shooting a lower percentage, having trouble finishing in the paint, and turnovers are still a problem. Thusfar, numerous theories have been thrown around as to why this is the case. I would argue this is due in large part in the Cavs inability to space the floor. To make my point, and because I continue to see the Twitterverse proclaim John Wall as better than Kyrie Irving (I think we all disagree), I'd like to use the Washington Wizards as an example of how more effective spacing improves offensive efficiency to an enormous degree. Warning: if you don't like numbers, this post isn't for you.
The Cavs are currently starting Andrew Bynum and Tristan Thompson next to each other. One reason that this has been offensively ineffective (offensive efficiency 87.8, meaning the Cavs are scoring 87.8 points per 100 possessions when they share the floor) is because neither is a much of a threat beyond 8 feet. Since neither is a pick and pop threat (nor much of a roll threat, really), this allows defenses to key on Kyrie and limit his effectiveness.
Bynum from 8-16 feet is 10/26 (38.5%) and Tristan from the same distance is 15/38 (39.5%). This allows defenses to sag into the paint, clogging lanes for guard penetration and making it much more difficult to finish when they successfully get there.
Contrast that with the Wizards, who start Marcin Gortat and Nene in the middle. These guys are both able to space the floor more effectively than the Bynum/Thompson combo.
Here are their shot charts if you are interested:
Gortat is 24/50 from 8-16 feet (48%) and Nene is a bit less effective from this range at 13/32 (40.6%). However, Nene is able to help space the floor because he is a threat from the 16-24 foot range, where he is 15/32 (46.9%). The ability of these 2 big men to knock down shots from beyond 8 feet helps the Wizards tremendously, and allows John Wall to consistently get into the lane. More importantly, he gets into a lane that isn't nearly as crowded.
This shows up when you look at the shooting percentages of your guards in the paint. Kyrie/Dion/CJ/Jack are a combined 103/216 (47.7%) inside 8 feet, while Wall/Beal/Webster/Ariza are 116/195 (59.5%). If you look at Kyrie and Dion alone, they are only shooting 43.9% inside of 8 feet, a pathetic number. But can we pin this solely on their ability to finish? I would argue that you cannot, you must consider that they are operating within an offense that has much greater difficulty pulling 6'10"+ defenders away from the basket.
That the Cavs are dealing with a clogged paint is apparent everywhere you look, but consider this: they are currently last in the NBA for points in the paint, at 33.2 a game.
The ability for guys at the SG and SF position to knock down corner 3's is also tremendously valuable for point guards that thrive on paint penetration. The drive to the basket and kick to the corner is a staple of efficient offenses, and the corner 3 is probably the best shot in basketball outside the paint. Here as well, the Wizards are excelling, and the Cavs are struggling.
Corner 3 stats (click to enlarge)
I have included many more Cavs in this to try and paint the full picture of the SG/SF situation. The Wizards do not have another wing player averaging over about 10 minutes a game, whereas the Cavs have 6 of them (another problem). As you can see, this is area where the Wizards have doubled the Cavs production, and have shot 6% higher percentage from the corner while doing so. A significant shooting threat from the corner is a great way to keep defenses from collapsing on your point guard driving to the basket. As a side note, Dion is 9 for 14 from the corner. Let's get him open there more often.
Right now John Wall is having a breakout year, and Kyrie is slumping. The Wizards are scoring 101.5 points per 100 possessions, while the Cavs are scoring a pathetic 94.1 - but let's consider the totality of the situation before we conclude that Kyrie is a regressing star. Without lineups that successfully space the floor for him to operate, Kyrie will continue to be the focal point of the defense on every possession.
Let's figure out how to space the floor, Mike.
(All stats from NBA.com unless otherwise noted)