David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
The Cavs looked like a real basketball team three out of the four games this week. Progress!
The Cavs won half of their games this week including a dramatic 19 point comeback over the Miami Heat. Here’s what we learned from maybe the most fun week this season.
Collin Sexton keeps showing improvement.
Sexton has been an efficient scorer since the Jordan Clarkson trade. He’s averaged 22.3 points, 3.2 assists and a team leading 4.2 free throw attempts while posting a 57.2 true shooting percentage since the trade. This 31 game stretch suggests that he’s turning the corner as a scorer.
Getting to the basket, to the free-throw line, and converting three pointers are the most efficient ways to score. Sexton’s improvement in efficiency can largely be attributed to emphasizing those aspects of his game. Since the Clarkson trade, Sexton is taking 6.9 attempts within five feet compared to last season where he was taking 4.7 attempts there. These shot attempts have come at the expense of the 15 to 19 foot mid-range shot. He shot 2.4 attempts from that range last season and is shooting just 1.4 attempts since the trade.
The second year guard has also increased his three point looks during that time as he’s shot 44.3% from distance on 4.5 attempts per game since the trade. On the season Sexton is shooting 38.1% from distance on 3.9 attempts. Those are encouraging numbers considering his awful December where he shot just 11.1% from three.
Sexton’s improved shot profile has allowed him to get to the line with more regularity. He’s had five or more free throw attempts in five of his last seven games. His ability to get to the free throw line will go a long way in determining how consistent of a scorer he will be.
Sexton is the most challenging young player on the Cavs to project. It’s easy to see him being a career six man, however it’s hard to put any sort of cap on him considering how far he’s come as a scorer since entering the league. His game isn’t perfect but it’s currently better than many, including myself, thought he’d ever be. Only time will tell what his true ceiling is as a player.
Larry Nance Jr. is becoming more comfortable in his role.
Nance is a jack of all trades but a master of none. I’ve been down on his fit in the past. I’ve viewed him as a five offensively but a four defensively which isn’t ideal for modern roster construction. However, my error was limiting him to one role. As he’s shown in the past and again this week, Nance’s usefulness is his ability to fill multiple needs.
Nance was one of the biggest reasons Cleveland was able to fight their way back against Miami on Monday. Duncan Robinson killed the Cavs in the first half as he went five for five from beyond the arc for 15 points while being a plus 17. The second half was different story as he closed the game out with no points on zero for five shooting while being a -15. The biggest reason for that change was Nance.
Nance’s versatility allowed for him to take advantage Robinson on both ends of the floor. Nance was the primary defender on Robinson for a lot of the second half. His length and quickness took away that part of Miami’s offense. On the other end, Nance took Robinson in the post repeatedly in the second half as he finished with 10 points on five of six shooting.
The three big lineup isn’t sustainable, but Nance’s skillset allows you to run it if the matchup calls for it like it did Monday night. Having a player who can adequately fill multiple needs allows the Cavs some level of flexibility they wouldn’t have otherwise. We saw just how valuable Nance’s versatility can be in the back-to-back wins over Miami and Philadelphia.
The ceiling is the roof for Kevin Porter Jr.
KPJ showed all the tools in his arsenal in Monday’s climatic come from behind win. The rookie poured in 30 points on 18 shots with eight boards, three assists, and three steals. He’s flashed all of the skills he showed in Monday’s win before, but this game might be the one we remember for a long time if he becomes a star.
The rookie’s ability to create space on the perimeter and body control at the rim are impressive for his age. Porter’s quick first step allows him to create space on the perimeter. When his outside shot is falling like it was against Miami, his quick step and ability to initiate contact allows him to get to the rim with ease. As a result he finished Monday’s game by shooting four of seven from deep while canning eight of his 10 free throw attempts.
Porter may have the most potential of any of the Cavs young players, but the consistency isn’t there yet. KPJ rounded out the week with not as impressive performances against the Sixers, Pelicans, and Pacers. The highs for Porter are impressive but the average nights aren’t worth getting excited over. The rookie has finished with 15 points or more and a 55.5 true shooting percentage or better in four of his 11 games in February. On the month he averaged 13.5 points on a 54.8 true shooting percentage.
Porter has shown flashes that he can become a premier scorer, but the consistency certainly isn’t there yet. That lack of consistency is part of the reason he wasn’t taken in the lottery like projected at the beginning of last season. The next step in his progression will be putting together solid nights on a consistent basis. If he ever does that, the Cavs may have found one of their cornerstones for the future.