Between Kevin Love and Channing Frye, who would you guess has more seasons with at least 100 made 3-pointers?
It's a trick question. They both have four seasons that meet that baseline, and each has a fifth year that falls just short. There are only four players in the NBA who have reached this baseline more than twice in the last seven years, and two of them are now on our team.
Unlike Kevin Love, Channing Frye doesn't bring much else to the table on offense. He's about as likely to grab an offensive rebound as Kyrie Irving. Less than 20 percent of his shots come inside the paint. He is, however, an above average passer for a big man, dishing out assists about twice as often as Tristan Thompson or Timofey Mozgov with a career AST/TOV ratio a little better than 1:1.
Since his main offensive skill is three point shooting, let's dig a little deeper into those numbers. Over the last three years, he's shot 38.2 percent from deep. When will he shoot? Pretty much only when he's open. Only 12 percent of his attempts have occurred when a defender was within 4 feet of him, which he's converted at a 30.2 percent clip. 39 percent of his attempts have been with a defender 4 to 6 feet away, which he converts at a rate of 35.0 percent. Lastly, 49 percent of his attempts were wide open, and this is where he really shines: 188/411, 42.6 percent. That's 1.28 points per shot, something that a defense simply cannot allow to happen very often. Fortunately for us, he should find himself open quite often with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James collapsing defenses with drives into the paint.
Where does he like to shoot? Earlier in his career, he shot very well from the corners, but it's been five years since he was efficient from that zone. In recent years he's done the majority of his damage above the break, an ideal area for the the pick and pop. This should work very well when he shares the court with Tristan or Mozgov, as they work mostly in the paint.
Frye's role in the Cavalier's offense will be a simple one. He'll park himself on the perimeter, mostly above the break. Sometimes he'll be on the weak side as an outlet, and sometimes on the strong side running a pick and pop with the ball handler. If he's open when he catches the ball, he'll shoot. If not, he'll pass.
What about pairing him with Kevin Love? On the surface this seems great: all the spacing, giving LeBron and Kyrie a wide open lane to drive into. However, both of them prefer to work above the break, which isn't ideal when they share the court. For this pairing to function best, one of them will have to go outside their comfort zone and stand in the corner. While Kevin Love has played this role more often since coming to Cleveland, it'd be better if Frye can make the adjustment so that we can keep our more skilled big man closer to the ball. While it's not exactly a natural fit, working out the kinks of this pairing would be very beneficial. A Kyrie/J.R. Smith/LeBron/Love/Frye lineup should be absolutely devastating on offense, to the point where the defensive shortcomings might not even matter.
On that note, we should talk a little bit about the other side of the ball. Admittedly, I haven't ever keyed in on Frye's defense during a game, so my analysis will be limited to the few useful defensive numbers available to us.
First, we'll talk about size. He's 6'11" tall, weighs 255 lbs, with a 7'3" wingspan and a 9'3" standing reach. So, he's slightly bigger than Tristan Thompson in each measurement. A very long time ago, he had better than average agility for a big man at the 2005 NBA Pre-Draft Camp. He's now 32 years old, though, so it's safe to say he's slowed down a bit.
Can he anchor a defense? According to the Nylon Calculus rim protection numbers, last year he saved 0.7 points per 36 minutes over his position (mostly at power forward with a few center minutes sprinkled in). This year so far, the figure is at 0.6 points saved per 36 minutes. In both cases a name that showed up nearby was Hawks center Tiago Splitter, which might be a good comparison. Neither guy seems capable of anchoring a good defense on their own, but each can provide supplementary rim protection.
What about rebounding? His work on the defensive boards has never been much better than replacement level for a center, or adequate for a power forward. However, this hasn't proven to be a major liability for his teams, as they've rebounded at a league average rate with him on the floor the last couple years. We have plenty of good rebounders that would help to cover over this weakness in his game, so I don't expect it to become a major issue.
What does RPM think of him?
2015-16: +0.74 Off / +2.41 Def / +3.15 Tot [#12 among PF / No. 11 / No. 8]
2014-15: -1.28 Off / -0.12 Def / -1.40 Tot [#47 among PF / No. 47 / No. 52]
2013-14: +3.92 Off / +1.17 Def / +5.09 Tot [#2 among PF / No. 25 / No. 4]
In 2014-15, he was coming off injury and playing for a new team, so perhaps we should discount those poor results to some degree. The other two years he graded out very highly on both sides of the ball, and especially on offense in 2013-14. If you recall, that was the year he was paired with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix. His floor spacing was a great fit with their ability to attack the basket. Hopefully working with Kyrie and LeBron yields similar results.
Defensively, the numbers are solid. The median for power forwards is in the +0.4 to +0.6 range for each of these years, so one below average year, one above average year, and then this year he's been very good in limited minutes. All-in-all, he seems to have a positive impact on that end.
Now let's briefly consider each of the possible big man pairings in turn:
Channing Frye and Timofey Mozgov
This will likely be our bench duo, and it's a solid fit. Frye spaces the floor on offense, allowing Mozgov to work along the baseline or near the free throw line. Between the two of them, our defense should be able to protect the rim very well. It's not an overly active defensive front court, though, so perhaps Shumpert would be a good wing to pair with this front court duo.
Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye
I really love the fit here. This allows Tristan to play his more natural defensive position of power forward, while still acting as a center on offense. I think both players will be optimized when they share the court as long as they are working with at least two high usage perimeter players. The Kyrie - Delly - LeBron - Tristan - Frye lineup, in particular, should be excellent on both ends.
Kevin Love and Channing Frye
Super powered offense, very questionable defense. You can go two directions with the rest of the lineup when these two share the court. 1) Try to cover over the defensive deficiencies with something like Delly - Shump - LeBron. 2) Just forget the defense, and make the offense unstoppable. Kyrie/J.R./LeBron will consistently produce hyper-efficient looks, and the other team simply may not be able to keep up.
LeBron James and Channing Frye
Unsurprisingly, LeBron would be the best power forward to pair with Frye. This pairing might actually be the only instance where Frye is better than Love, as he should provide enough rim protection to make this work defensively. Rebounding would be a problem, but I suspect it's one that LeBron can solve if he puts his mind to it. Any perimeter trio should work well here.
So, what do you think? Is he a good fit? What lineups intrigue you the most? Let me know in the comments.