So the Cleveland Cavaliers love shooting. I mean, they REALLY love shooting. They employ Kyrie Irving. They have Channing Frye. They are patiently waiting the return of marksman J.R. Smith. Kevin Love is hitting at a career high clip from deep. They swung on Mike Dunleavy, for reasons you can probably imagine (shooting). Even LeBron James has his shot back. This is America though, and the rich get richer: enter Kyle Korver.
On its face, Kyle Korver’s fit on a team with the league’s foremost locator of open three point shooters is seamless. LeBron once called Mike Miller a rocket launcher. In comparison, Kyle Korver is a rail gun. The fit goes a lot deeper though, and further shows a Cavs brain trust that understands every detail of what their plan on the court is.
Lets start with Defense
Kyle Korver is a middling (at best) defender. Let’s be honest, are you here to talk about how a 35 year old guard defends? Korver is a smart player and capable team defender that will need protecting, and was able to exist on several great defensive teams in Atlanta. He will tread water in a lot of matchups, and you will hold your breath when the Cavs play the Warriors. You were going to anyway.
The Hawks defense with Kyle Korver on the floor in the 2015-2016 season was a great 98.1 points per 100 possessions. That doesn’t mean Korver is locking fools up, but he can be part of your unit. That Hawks team was incredibly cohesive, and sported Paul Millsap and Al Horford. This year, with some upheaval, the Hawks defense is far worse when Korver is on the floor, surrendering 106.4 points per 100. Team defense is a tricky chemistry project.
Let’s get to the good stuff, why did the Cavs surrender a future first for this man?
The numbers on Kyle Korver’s page jump out at you when you think about the Cavs current roster (ie: LeBron James). He isn’t just a great 3 point shooter, he’s a great 3 point shooter in the exact areas the Cavs offense works to create looks.
The Cavs sets generate a ton of looks for guards rotating behind the play for above the break threes, and coming off hammers into the corners, or just being stationed there to begin with as Kyrie Irving and LeBron James work to the basket for a layup or passing lane. They generate 33.7% of their shots in these two areas alone, with less emphasis on straight on attempts. Overlay Korver’s current season hot zones, and it’s a thing of beauty.
Korver’s best work comes from the corners, and above the break. Sample size is a thing to watch here, since he is SO HEAVY in straight on attempts, but at first blush the fit could not be better for what the Cavs are looking to accomplish.
Data Mirrors Lore
Play type and tracking data loves Korver’s fit too:
- Of players with more than 20 spot up possessions, Korver ranks first in the league generating 1.55 PPP (points per possession). Of note, current Cavalier Channing Frye is directly behind him at 1.53. Kevin Love is also in the 90th percentile at 1.25 PPP. The Cavs spot up options are an embarrassment of riches, and that doesn’t include a surprisingly potent LeBron James (1.19 PPP) and on the shelf J.R. Smith.
- Another staple run for J.R. Smith is the dribble hand off. Korver generates a perfectly capable 1.04 PPP, which is solidly in the upper third of the league. This number could well go up given the vastly upgraded talent around him.
- We’ve established there will be open shots, right? Korver is shooting an obscene 49% on “Wide Open” threes (defender 6+ feet away) and 42% with a defender between 4 and 6 feet.
- He finishes the play or keeps the ball moving. Only 11.8% of Korver’s shots come with 2+ dribbles.
- Ideally, a lot of these will improve by nature of changing out a tumultuous Hawks roster in favor of working with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and a shooter like Channing Frye.
The Cavs Get Another Early Bargain Find
The Cavs look to have effectively created a platoon to survive the loss of J.R. Smith for most of the regular season, with Korver and rising defensive stalwart DeAndre Liggins each providing a key piece of the all around game that has made Smith so important to the Cavs. That they were able to do so with so little asset investment is a small coup. His age is definitely cause for concern, in the sense that things can change at any time, but the flexibility and shooting he brings to the roster should make Korver and immediate hit on the floor.