When the Cavs flipped Anderson Varejão’s expiring contract back in February for Channing Frye, it was apparent the team was looking to add more shooting, spacing and line-up flexibility, and a more durable option to steal some minutes from a regressing Timofey Mozgov. They bet on Frye’s potential to be highly efficient alongside LeBron and Kyrie, who suck in defenders and get their teammates quality looks, and they bet correctly — Frye shot 56.5 percent from three in the playoffs. Of course, his minutes were dramatically reduced against the Warriors, whose speed and switching make for a less than ideal match up. And that’s okay. Channing Frye wasn’t acquired to be the missing link that the Cavs needed to win the finals. He wasn’t some sort of secret weapon to dismantle Draymond Green.
With Frye, the Cavs became more versatile, and, with the ability to play the four or the five, he made things more interesting, as he could basically be paired with any of the Cavs’ other bigs and it made some sort of sense. Throw him in at center with Kevin Love at power forward, and all of a sudden everyone around LeBron can hit a three. Pair him with Tristan Thompson and it’s a nice combination of grit and skill. Slide LeBron to the four, and, theoretically, against most teams (for limited minutes) he can protect the rim well enough on one end and stretch the floor on the other. Plus, he adds a needed spark to the bench unit: In the playoffs, the best lineup featuring him, alongside Dellavedova, LeBron, Jefferson and Shumpert, outscored opponents by 41.7 points per 100 possessions in the 77 minutes they played together. He created depth as both a situational test subject and a plug-and-play replacement.
It’s far from a secret that the Cavs have limited flexibility this summer. But, even in the best case scenario in terms of adding depth moving forward — either Sir’Dominic Pointer, Cedi Osman, Kay Felder (or a combination) develop into role players — the Cavs are going to need Channing Frye to continue to be ready and reliable to step into and impact games, whether that’s night after night or just sporadically. Although it’s easy to view the addition of Channing Frye to the 2015-16 Cavs as a success since he impacted the team in a clearly positive way — Varejão’s skill set was starting to overlap with too many other players — we only saw a moderate sample size. Moving forward, it’s hard to know how much playing time, or what role that Channing Frye will be given, but between there definitely being a fair amount of chemistry and him not being a player that need reps to stay relevant (he’s kind of like James Jones in that way), it seems like he’s going to be extremely important to the Cavs future, whether that’s them figuring out bench lineups that can rain threes on other teams, or it’s just him filling minutes.