When Cleveland Cavaliers starting guard J.R. Smith had surgery in the middle of December, few would have expected or hoped that this was the start of a season-long trend for the Cavs of horribly unlucky injuries. Kevin Love underwent surgery a few weeks ago in order to rehabilitate a nagging knee injury. These injuries forced the Cavs to make some critical player acquisitions that will benefit Cleveland come playoff time.
Although the Cavaliers stood pat at the trade deadline and did not utilize their trade exception, general manager David Griffin has put together another year’s worth of savvy moves to leave head coach Tyronn Lue with the welcomed headache of accommodating more players into his rotation than he is accustomed to. In last year’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Lue relied heavily on seven players. Out of these seven, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson played more than thirty minutes per contest, while Kevin Love, Richard Jefferson and Iman Shumpert were the only other players for the Cavs to average double-digit minutes of playing time. This concern was part of the reason Griffin went into January and February intent on making quality additions that will allow Lue to allocate minutes in a more sustainable manner.
The additions of Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and (potentially) Andrew Bogut are all positive moves that leave the Cavs in a much better position than where they were at the beginning of the year.
Kyle Korver, perhaps the best catch-and-shoot three-point threat in the league, has been a revelation. Since joining the Cavs, Korver is shooting a torrid 52 percent from three-point range, up a full eight points from his percentage with Atlanta in the first half of the season. Most tellingly, however, is that fact that Korver is averaging nearly 26 minutes per game as a Cavalier, including 9.5 minutes in the fourth quarter, a team high. This statistic indicates that Lue is as comfortable and willing to play Korver in crunch time as closers James and Irving.
The recent acquisition of Deron Williams will do wonders for Kyrie Irving, a critical player whose only natural backup this season has been Kay Felder, a D-League caliber player who tries hard but can do little to initiate meaningful offense.
Many have decried Williams as being an over-the-hill player, but his statistics tell another story, as he is currently creating the 15th most points per possession in the NBA, which includes his assists, and is ranked by Synergy Analytics 31st out of 124 NBA guards in defense. In a team that relies heavily on pick-and-roll offense, Williams’ effective field goal percentage of 55 is another welcome attribute, while the fact that shooters Williams passes to in these situations shoot an effective field goal percentage of 70 is both intriguing and mind-boggling. Williams will provide the Cavs’ second-unit with a reliable quarterback, spelling James from this duty as needed.
Andrew Bogut, who is considering joining the Cavaliers from Philadelphia after receiving a buyout, provides Cleveland with the big man they are desperately missing. If Bogut can pick up ten minutes per game during the playoffs, the Cavaliers will be thankful for taking a chance on the Australian.
With these additions in hand, LeBron James and the Cavaliers have a much better chance of becoming repeat champions this summer than they did at the start of 2017.