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How has the Cavs offense performed under Tyronn Lue?

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A look at how the Cavs' offense has performed since Tyronn Lue took over for David Blatt.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers are 15 games into the Tyronn Lue era, and they've been fairly successful, as Lue boasts a record of 11-4, and the Cavs are sitting fairly comfortably at the top of the Eastern Conference, with a three-game lead on the Toronto Raptors and a nine-game lead on the Boston Celtics for third. Over this time, the Cavs have the third best offensive rating in the league at 111.3 points per100 possessions, per NBA.com, and they've topped 115 points in six games, highlighted by an 115-92 detonation of the Oklahoma City Thunder last Sunday.

The offense has been scoring points, but there's something that's felt off recently about the Cavs' offense as a whole. A lot of the highest-scoring affairs for the Cavs under Lue have come against the dregs of the NBA (120 against the Kings and Lakers, 115 against the Suns), and there have been some absolute duds mixed in with the scoring explosions, including the dreadful 96-88 loss to the Pistons on Monday. Kevin Love has seemingly been feast or famine, and even LeBron James has struggled to score at times since Lue took over. So let's do a quick deep dive and see how the numbers paint Lue's overall efficacy on the Cavs offense through 15 games.

General Trends

Lue talked about playing faster when he took over for Blatt, but so far, that hasn't happened. The Cavs still rank 28th in the league in pace, and they're averaging 95.8 possessions per game with Lue, compared to 95.2 over the full season. But even without the increased pace, the Cavs are still uncorking more points, thanks to improved efficiency in shooting and ball-handling. Compared with the first 40 games of the year, here's how the Cavs have looked under Lue in several key efficiency metrics:

Metric

Under Blatt (41 gms)

Under Lue (15 gms)

Difference

True Shooting %

54.6%

56.2%

+1.6%

Effective FG%

51.3%

53.4%

+2.1%

Turnover%

14.7%

12.2%

-2.5%

Assist/Turnover Ratio

1.56

1.97

+0.41

Free Throw Rate

.272

.228

-.044

3-Point Rate

.340

.322

-.018

The Cavs have taken slightly fewer threes under Lue and their free throw rate has cratered from the middle of the pack to one of the lowest in the league. However, the Cavs are hitting shots at a better rate than under Blatt, and while part of that can be explained by it being later in the season (Where offense is generally better than in the first 20 or so games), the Cavs have moved from sixth to third in effective field goal percentage, which is notable. But the most eye-opening stats come in the ball-handling numbers. The Cavs have gone from the middle of the pack to one of the best teams in the league at avoiding turnovers, and the ball movement has generally been better since Lue took over, leading to a higher assist-to-turnover ratio. Healthy, in shape Kyrie Irving helps this, obviously, but low turnover rates are how the Cavs have made up for their simplistic offense since LeBron returned, and that's going to be huge for them moving forward.

The Big Three

Kyrie Irving has seen the most benefit of any of the Big Three from the coaching change. Again, him getting in playing shape is part of that, but he's been much better since January 22nd, averaging 21.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists, which is a significant improvement from the 16/3/4 he averaged through his first 15 contests. Irving's shooting continues to rebound, as he's up over 30 percent from three in the last 15 games, and hitting a comfortable 50 percent from the field. But the biggest gains have come in the assist category - since Lue took over, Kyrie's averaging 8.9 potential assists and 6.5 adjusted assists, per NBA.com player tracking data. He has the ball in his hands more under Lue, and we're getting to see him distribute more this past month than we have at any other point in the last three seasons.

Love and James have also mildly improved since Lue was promoted, though it's less pronounced than Irving's improved play. Love's become more of an outside presence with Lue, as the new coach has made good on his promise to get Love more elbow touches. He's seeing about two more possessions per game from the elbow and hitting 50 percent of his shots off those looks. Overall he's gone from 15.7 points per game to 16.6 under Lue, and while his three-point shot has regressed of late, he's been a more efficient scorer overall. LeBron, meanwhile, has also seen his three-point shooting fall off (21.2 percent since the coaching change), but he's averaging 1.8 more assists per game, and he's taking fewer threes and turning the ball over less, so he too fits the theme of a slight overall efficiency uptick.

Everyone Else

All of those extra assist opportunities for Kyrie and LeBron are going somewhere, and J.R. Smith and Richard Jefferson have been the primary beneficiaries. Since the coaching change, J.R. is shooting 43.8 percent from three on nearly eight attempts per game, a four percent increase in his shooting from the Blatt days. And while Jefferson's gotten less playing time since the switch, he's been an absolute assassin from outside, hitting 51.9 percent from three. Overall, Jefferson, Smith, and Matthew Dellavedova are hitting 45.4 percent on 13 combined attempts per game from beyond the arc in that span. That's insane.

Also relevant: Timofey Mozgov is quietly alive again. Mozgov still isn't starting, but he's been useful off the bench since the switch, hitting 62 percent of his shots for 6.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. This is a nice development, something that should continue as Kyrie continues to come back. Similarly, Tristan is getting better looks around the rim, hitting 64 percent of his shots in the last 15 games. With Channing Frye around to further contribute spacing, these two should get even more open looks at the rim, in theory.

Lineups

The big three have been slightly worse playing together since the coaching change, but it's relatively negligible. In both cases, lineups involving Irving, James, and Love are scoring over 110 points per game, and the overall net rating has dropped from +11.3 to +9.5. I think things are okay there.

The most interesting lineup note is that the 5-man murderball lineup from early in the season (Delly/LeBron/J.R./Love/Tristan) is actually better since Lue took over. That group scored 116.9 points/100 possessions and had a net rating of +19.7 in 137 minutes under Blatt. But under Lue, the group scores an absurd 127.5 points/100 possessions and has a net rating of +20.3 in 35 minutes of action. Lue has upped the pace this group plays at (Pace of 102.1 vs. 91.5 under Blatt), and all of the minor changes we see overall are magnified here. LeBron plays point guard more, Love is at the elbow which adds spacing, and then you have Delly and J.R. spotting up and TT setting screens and lurking for rebounds. It's beautiful.

I'm also excited for the new Kyrie-led bench lineup that debuted on Monday and then destroyed the Hornets on Wednesday. It's a 14-minute sample, but the Cavs have tried running out Kyrie/Delly/Jefferson/Frye/Mozgov, and the results have been spectacular: 138.2 offensive rating, 94.5 defensive rating, 71 percent of baskets assisted. Those will all come down with more time, but the spacing in that lineup around Kyrie/Mozgov pick and roll is something I want to see more of.

Overall Impression

Lue covered defense while Blatt was at the helm, but offensively, Lue seems to be having a big impact since he became head coach. The big three aren't shooting that well collectively, but all three guys are getting more chances to be the focal point and are getting more assist opportunities, and the role players are all playing really well. The shooters are hitting shots, the rim finishers are finishing, and the spacing is way better than it was in the first 41 games. With Frye in the fold, Mozgov brought back from the dead, and Kyrie continuing to get back to being Kyrie, the Cavs offense is looking mighty formidable as we enter the stretch run, and Lue appears to be a big part of that.