The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t have their best week on the court. They lost their two games this week on the road to the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat. In both games the Cavs competed for three and a half quarters, but they didn’t quite do enough to get a win. Here’s what we learned this week.
Kevin Love is taking three-pointers off screens
Love’s role in the offense has changed drastically this season. One of the things that the Cavs have experimented with this season is having Love take threes off screens.
Here’s an example of how the Cavs are using him. In this clip, Brandon Knight sets a pin down screen for Love which generates an open three-pointer:
Love has attempted 2.2 shots per game off screens in the 13 games he’s played. To put that in perspective JJ Redick, who is someone who you think of taking shots off screens, is attempting 2.1 shots per game off screens. Love has been efficient in this role as he has posted an effective field goal percentage of 55.2 percent and is averaging 1.10 points per possession, per nba.com.
It’s a small sample size, but Love has been effective coming off screens this season. The Cavs have not utilized in this capacity since coming to Cleveland as most of his three point attempts have come in spot ups or pick and pop situations. It’ll be interesting to see if Love continues to be utilized in this way for the remainder of the season.
Cedi Osman continues to be a streaky shooter
Osman found his shot in February as he finished the month averaging 16.8 points per game on .576/.552/.900 shooting splits. However,March hasn’t been as kind as he’s averaging just 8.5 points per game on .293/.300/1.000 shooting. This was a rough week for Osman, as he put up just 10 points on three of 19 shooting.
Osman has been a streaky shooter for much of the season as illustrated by his averages the last two months. It’s easy to buy into his future when he’s shooting the ball well and is playing confidentially. Conversely, it’s harder to buy into his upside when his offensive game falls apart because the outside shot isn’t falling.
Brandon Knight is an intriguing asset
The Cavs strategy this year was to move their expiring contracts for assets and contracts set to expire next year instead of taking on long term money. The Cavs might have been able to get back better assets for George Hill or Alec Burks if they had been willing to take on longer term contracts, but the plan appears to be to either compete in free agency in 2020 or continue the pipeline of gathering late firsts or seconds for expiring contacts. The latter seems more likely. Brandon Knight is an intriguing asset with that in mind.
Knight has shown flashes of his former self since coming to Cleveland despite still playing under a minutes restriction. He had a solid outing in Miami on Friday. He finished the night with 16 points on 6-11 shooting and six assists in just over 25 minutes of play.
Knight has the ability to help the Cavs in multiple ways next season if he continues to play well. The Cavs will benefit from having him as their backup point guard if they are striving to be a playoff team. The more likely option is that they can flip his expiring contract for another asset next season if they plan on tanking next season as well. That asset could be a lot better if Knight is able to continue to progress like he has in Cleveland.
David Nwaba continues to anchor the bench
Nwaba isn’t much of a scorer, but he caught fire on Wednesday’s game against the Nets as he finished with 22 points on nine of 13 shooting. Nwaba doesn’t have many skills that jump off the page, but he continues to be a player that you can win with. The Cavs are significantly better with him on the floor as he has a team best -1.0 net rating among players who have appeared in over 20 games. Every team can benefit from having a bench player like Nwaba who makes a positive impact on both ends of the floor.
Collin Sexton is trending in the right direction
One of the most encouraging things about Sexton’s season has been that we have been able to see consistent progress throughout the year. Sexton has started to turn the corner the last month and a half as we’ve seen him become a much more consistent player. Since the beginning of February the rookie is averaging 18.6 points and 3.2 assists per game on .410/.394/.793 shooting splits.
Sexton’s improved outside shooting is the easiest skill to point at and see the improvement. He came into the league with a questionable jump shot and was not much of a three-point shooter at all. He’s taken that weakness and has turned it into somewhat of a strength as he was able to pass Kyrie Irving for the record of most three pointers made by a rookie in franchise history and is a 38.8 percent shooter from three.
There’s still plenty of signs of concern with Sexton. His jump shot form still looks awkward even if the results have been good, his assist to turnover ratio isn’t what you’d want out of a starting point guard, and he doesn’t consistently get to the line. However, the incredible progress he’s made shouldn’t be diminished. It’s been enjoyable to watch the rookie continue to progress and develop throughout the season. It’ll be interesting to see if what the progression will be this summer after he has a full NBA season under his belt.