Like many players in the COVID-tinged 2020-21 NBA season, Larry Nance Jr. battled through illness and injury playing in just 35 games. Dealing with a fractured thumb as well as a mystery illness that caused him to lose 20 pounds in just one week, it could (still) be argued that Nance solidified his role as Cleveland’s primary defender this year. The 28-year-old big notched a career-best 1.7 steals per game while also snagging $222K for local businesses — quite proper, I must say.
The Core Defender
On a Cavs’ team desperately lacking offensive rhythm and flow, Nance repeatedly gave his team a shot on defense ...creating extra possessions with his fluid approach. His pick-pocketing was so supreme in fact, it could have landed him 3rd in the league had he met the statistical minimum of playing 70% of his team’s games. That stat — among others — helped Nance birth a defensive rating of 107 this season. Per Cleaning the Glass, teams scored -9.3 points per 100 possessions with Nance on the court. That’s good enough to list Cleveland’s big at the 97th percentile rank among all players in the league. The same research tool tags Nance with a 2.5 Steal Percentage, listing him in the 99th percentile or 10th in the league behind Victor Oladipo. What percentage of opponents’ possessions ended in turnovers with Nance on the court? That can be best explained within the TOV% stat — also a solid measure for Nance — who sits 10th in the league at 3.3%.
The Long Ball
Nance saw improvements to his perimeter game this year, shooting a career-high 36% from three. He averaged 3.3 attempts per game from deep, also a career-high. Aside from adding the long-ball to his bag, Nance experienced some slight dips in his overall field goal percentage (47%) and points per game numbers (9.3). We could blame the thumb here, or even his newfound love for the three-ball, but here’s a look at his 2020-21 shot chart:
The “Can’t Miss” Game
Nance had perhaps his best game of the season on Jan. 7 in Memphis, shooting a perfect 7-7 from the field and 4-4 from three. That same evening, Nance ran away with 3 steals and the Cavs snatched an 94-90 impressive road win. It was by far his best game. He was EVERYWHERE, check it out:
The Hometown Hero:
I fell in love with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989 when I saw ‘mr-tube-socked-larry-nance’ taking to the sky at the Richfield Coliseum. As far as I know, that lovely man never left Ohio — he actually went a step further and raised Nance Jr. in Richfield as well.
While we all anticipated the 2020-21 NBA season somewhat hopeless and locked in our homes, it was Larry Nance Jr. who brought a smile to our faces and excitement to our hearts. He promised us he would wear our shirts while auctioning off his own... he delivered to the tune of $222,000. His efforts landed him a much-deserved nomination for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award, the first-ever B/R Kicks Community Award and endless respect from his local community.
The first-ever B/R Kicks Community Award goes to Larry Nance Jr. for supporting locally owned businesses using the NBA tunnel— B/R Kicks (@brkicks) June 25, 2021
Full interview with @Larrydn22 and local Cleveland business owners https://t.co/dd1OMZYwZ0 pic.twitter.com/rptBgcDwM8
Nance signed a rookie-scale extension with the Cavs through 2023, and Cleveland would be wise to keep him on their roster. If he can continue to improve his shot and strength on defense, he will be an asset to any team looking for a hustling big with the ability to score from anywhere on the floor.