Channing Frye, like many on the Cavaliers, is something of a known quantity.
When he hits the floor, you know that the Cavaliers offensive rating will spike. You know that he’ll be a slightly subpar defensive rebounder and an atrocious defender. And he’ll play the same role every time out
There’s value in that. Frye rarely takes matters into his own hands on either side of the ball. 84.1 percent of his shot attempts come after zero dribbles. Another 10.4 percent come after one dribble, via NBA.com/stats.
As a byproduct, Frye’s production on a day-to-day basis is directly affected by how opponents decide to play him, how well the Cavaliers offense is flowing, and whether he’s hitting the shots he gets, which are naturally high variance threes.
Sometimes, it goes very, very well. Frye shot better than 40 percent from three in three separate months of the season and when he wasn’t completely wide open from distance, he was being guarded so tightly that he allowed LeBron James a free runway to the rim. This is likely Frye’s greatest value to the Cavaliers. His mere existence unlocks LeBron’s offensive game to its fullest capacities.
James had a better offensive rating, assist percentage, true shooting percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio with Frye on the floor, per NBA.com/stats. Frye simply makes his job easier due to his insane gravitational pull on traditional bigs that might normally impede LeBron’s progress to the rim.
The variance that comes with a dependence on others and almost exclusively shooting threes burned Frye at points during this season. His shooting collapsed in January and February, dropping down to a “just okay” 37 percent in January before plummeting to 32.8 percent in February. That made it hard for him to survive on the floor and his struggles often coincided with those of the Cavaliers.
Frye dealt with personal tragedy as well this season. He lost his parents just weeks apart, and he said it was affecting his play on the court in a touching Player’s Tribune piece:
Listen, I’m a super happy guy. But some days on the court — to be honest — I just didn’t have it emotionally. There was nothing in my tank. Many mornings, it was hard enough to get out of bed, not to mention to emotionally invest myself in regular-season NBA games. I felt on the verge of tears a few times on the court — out of the blue, my thoughts would return to my parents, and I’d be overcome with sadness that they weren’t out there watching me anymore.
This year’s regular season has been an exercise in remembering that personal trauma and hard times can leak onto the basketball court. We should always be cognizant when a player is having a tough stretch on the court. The same could apply to J.R. Smith’s downswings this year while dealing with a premature birth. We don’t know how dealing with grief affects players on the court, but being sensitive to it is hugely important.
Nonetheless, Frye was able to rebound late in the season and into the playoffs, finishing the postseason shooting 51.3 percent from three on 3.3 attempts per game. Unfortunately, in the Finals, Frye was once again schemed off the floor.
The Warriors forced him out of the series by being long, athletic and shooting the shit out of the ball and exploiting the space that Frye is unable to lock down. On the defensive end of things, they were just able to stick a wing or even a guard on him and he was unable to hurt them in the post or on switches when they were generated. This is just a reality of playing the Warriors. They scheme or out-talent otherwise useful players and force them off the floor.
What that means for Frye’s future in Cleveland is unknown. He’s an amazing player against 28 teams and completely unplayable against one. If the revamped Cavaliers front office decides that they’re going to start making moves with only beating the Warriors in mind and banking on their talent advantage against the rest of the East, then Frye could be a logical candidate to be squeezed out.
I would caution against that. Frye has been a major part of building the healthy locker room culture free of sniping in the media and subtweeting on Twitter. He’s universally well-loved and has managed to create a positive environment that resonates on the court. This team actually likes eachother, and Frye is a huge part of that.
Selfishly, I also never want the Road Trippin’ pod to end. It provides one of the most candid glimpses into these players’ lives that we’ll ever see and it’s not something that can be replicated by any member of the media. Channing and Richard Jefferson are hilarious and their running commentary on the season has made it more fun to follow this team.
Frye still has one more season on his contract at $7.4 million dollars before hitting free agency. My guess is that the Cavaliers will be happy to bring him back.