There is no way around this: the Cleveland Cavaliers are different. Replacing Kyrie Irving with Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade means the team is going to shoot fewer three-points and have less spacing. Channing Frye’s exodus from the rotation from the rotation hurts that, too. For a team that has bombarded teams from deep in this last three years, this is an identity change.
It also means that the team will have to create good three-point attempts differently — no longer can they bank on Irving creating them for himself. On Friday in Milwaukee at least, that meant taking Kyle Korver back to his roots.
In 19 minutes — 12 more than he played on opening night against the Boston Celtics — Korver hit five three-pointers and helped the Cavs pull away in a 116-97 win. To get him going, the Cavs ran action like this with LeBron James waiting to hit him with a pass as Tristan Thompson frees Korver with a screen:
As the Bucks started paying more attention to Korver, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue adjusted the Cavs’ setups. To make it harder for the long Bucks defenders to track him, Lue began having a set of screens free Korver. Swish.
Yes, there are still moments where Korver will get open three-point looks by virtue of sharing the floor with LeBron. Two of makes on Friday came because he moved off ball as LeBron surveyed the floor and found an opening. Another came on a kick-out from Jae Crowder.
But even running a few plays for Korver is a change from last year. After being acquired by the Hawks, sets were not designed to get Korver open looks. Instead, as James and Irving did what they did, he stood around and waited for shots. While he was still a threat — the Pacers spent the entire first round face guarding him after all — he was a functionally a different player.
Korver-centric sets also have the potential to free up teammates closer to the rim if teams pay too much attention to Korver. And the last thing any defense needs is to give LeBron an opening to fit a pass into.
Then, the Cavs were a glass overflowing with shooters. This year, with Rose, Wade and Iman Shumpert all cramping spacing from the perimeter, there just won’t be the same quality of looks. Cleveland can’t just bank on players standing around, waiting to shoot. With this group, it’s on Lue to generate sets that create open three-point looks. Friday showed how getting Korver back to basics could be part of the solution.