The Cleveland Cavaliers should be a lot better at shooting this season than last year's team. Replacing Alonzo Gee, Jarrett Jack, and Anthony Bennett with Kevin Love, Mike Miller, and LeBron James in your rotation will do that for you. Last year's team that finished 27th in the league by shooting 43.7 percent from the field was abysmal at scoring consistent baskets, and didn't have any one area of the floor where they were particularly strong. This year, things should be different.
Predicting how the Cavs' shooting will improve is somewhat difficult, given we don't know how the team will operate together under David Blatt. Not only have the Cavs replace about half of their rotation, but the Cavs also will be running a new system under a new coach that we still haven't fully been able to see on the floor. Players will also have had the summer to work on their games, and that could result in shifts in their shooting abilities, both positive and negative. Predicting this team's shooting numbers and areas of strength and weakness is basically a complete guessing game until we see it in action at the end of the month.
The best that we can do is attempt to project last year's shooting numbers into a composite view of what the players on this year's Cavs could produce from the field. It's an imperfect science, but by using last season's shot charts from the NBA Stats page, we can see what areas of potential strength and weakness for this season could be. By combining each player on this year's roster into one composite shot chart, we can see how the team as a whole fared last year in each section of a shot chart, and get a general idea of what to expect this season.* Here's how the current Cavs shot last season in one shot chart:
(Note: I only used players on roster that are on guaranteed deals and played last season. That means I left out A.J. Price and Lou Amundson, who might not make the team, and Joe Harris and Brendan Haywood, who didn't play last season).
The immediate takeaway from this chart is that the Cavs should be a strong three-point shooting team, which is fairly obvious. This year's roster combined to shoot 38.5 percent from three-point range last season, a mark that would have only finished behind San Antonio's 39.7 percent last season, and is a vast improvement over the 35.6 percent last year's Cavs shot. The Cavs will likely be very effective this season from the left wing, where Love takes most of his attempts, and Kyrie Irving, LeBron, and Marion all hit over 40 percent from last year. Corner threes should also be a strong area for the Cavs, where Love, Miller, and Matthew Dellavedova should shore up one of the Cavs' weakest shooting areas over the last few seasons.
Another exciting prospect is how well this year's Cavs finished in the paint last season. Last year's Cavs shot 51.8 percent in the paint, and the poor numbers for Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson were subject to a lot of criticism. Adding Love and LeBron, perhaps the best rim finisher in the game, puts this year's squad at 58.2 percent, a huge jump that could be even more important to improvement than the new-found three-point range. The Cavs' improved spacing should open things up for Irving and Waiters as well, which could make the Cavs even more effective here.
When compared to last year's team shooting chart, the differences are fairly obvious, particularly in areas where the Cavs struggled last season:
Your biggest improvements are in the paint and from the corners as already discussed, but there are improvements in all but three areas: Top of the key threes, the left elbow, and the right baseline. The top of the key and left elbow were spots where Jarrett Jack liked to operate, a statement that suddenly makes a slight dip in shooting percentages excusable, because Jarrett Jack. The Cavs are improved from every other spot on the floor, so hopefully that means this chart replaces a lot of the yellow areas with some green.
Looking at the projected starting lineup specifically, we can also look at how the Cavs' best unit will look to score. Here's a composite with Irving, Waiters, James, Love, and Varejao's numbers:
This chart shows a bit of a shift towards the left side of the floor. The left side three-point numbers go up, while pretty much everything on the right side gets worse. Kyrie is really the only player in the starting lineup that operates at his best and takes most of his shots from that side of the floor. The Cavs could actually use this to their advantage in sets where they want to free up Kyrie, because the Cavs can overload the floor on the left side, swing it, and get Kyrie open looks off the ball on the right side. The three-point shooting numbers here are still pretty strong, which should make it easier to get their perimeter scorers looks on drives to the rim.
Perhaps the biggest thing to There are a lot of shots taken from the left wing and elbow, and with Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao both operating at their best when shooting from these zones, it will be very interesting to see how the Cavs space the floor with these two. Love's presence could lead to Varejao getting more looks from the right elbow, where he was equally proficient, and the Cavs will probably stick Waiters and Irving in the corners more often, which should also help alleviate the left wing log jam.
This is an imperfect science, of course. We can't truly know how well the Cavs will shoot, and from where, until the season starts. However, this allows us to get an idea of areas of the floor where the Cavs could have success, and how the Cavs could look to get baskets for specific players in specific spots. However they choose to do this, though, it appears that the Cavs will be much, much better at shooting this season.
If you want to look at the raw numbers for each Cav from 2013-2014, the spreadsheet is here.