One of the reasons Kyle Korver works for the Cleveland Cavaliers is because of his fit. Korver, in basic terms, is a shooter. For years, he’s been elite at running off screens, spotting up and swishing three pointers. Pair him with LeBron James and you’ve put the Cavs closer to a second title.
Understandably, with no practice time during a road trip, Korver’s first two games with the Cavs were a bit of a struggle. He didn’t make a single three and he seemed to having a bit of an issue finding his fit.
An example. Here, he comes off two screens for a three of a curl. This is a classic set-up for Korver:
The issue, though, is the surrounding cast. That’s an open shot for Korver, but not wide open. The screens set by James Jones and Iman Shumpert get him free, but not wide open. It also doesn’t help that four Blazers are close to Korver.
Granted, this is late in a game the Cavs were going to lose. But playing Korver with this group of players doesn’t maximize what he provides. That changed Friday against the Kings.
With Shumpert starting Friday, Korver came off the bench during the second quarter as part of a LeBron-lead bench unit. He played the entire second quarter and most of the fourth in situations where the Cavs were able to maximize his gravity and his ability.
His first three with the Cavs is proof. When Ricard Jefferson drives, the Kings defense has to cut him off because Channing Frye is in the opposite corner spotting up. Aaron Afflalo, who perhaps comes too far off Korver, drops down in effort to stop Jefferson from passing to Frye or LeBron. The end result is an open three for Korver that he gets off before Afflalo can close out:
On a missed three earlier in the quarter, the same principles are at play. The Cavs’ screening off ball as LeBron works from elbow creates confusion. Afflalo fails to mark Korver’s actual direction as Frye sets a screen. With slightly different lineups, the Cavs could run a similar set with Love in place of James:
In the fourth, with Korver again playing with James, Frye, Jefferson and DeAndre Liggins, the Cavs go back to setting screens for Korver. Here, he runs through the baseline as Frye and Liggins obstruct three Sacramento defenders. Note the Kings’ play-by-play man saying ‘Uh-oh’ as Korver is wide open and James makes a simple pass:
Playing Korver with James is an obvious pairing, but playing him with bench units might be the best way to use him. In this role, James is a distributor and he will maximize every opening Korver gets. With Frye, the Cavs can leverage two elite shooters and make teams pick between two bad choices of who to defend. And Liggins, a borderline useless offensive player, can hidden with Korver. He’s a good screener, is able to defend the better of two wings on the other end and, if hidden in the corner, turns offense into a 4 vs. 4 scenario. Teams will sag off him, but the corners are Liggins’ best spot. For the year, he’s shooting 45.3 percent on corner threes; all he needs to be is just good enough.
Will there be some issues in incorporating Korver? Probably, if only because that’s how things work. And teams better at defense than the Kings won’t have that much trouble getting around screens.
But if last night is any sign, the Cavs are figuring it out.