The Cavaliers suffered their first preseason defeat last night against the Pacers, 111-102. With Kevin Love, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson all out due to minor injuries or rest, the Cavs struggled mightily to find an offensive spark. Their offensive deficiencies were only exacerbated after Cedi Osman left the game only seven minutes in.
In the absence of the Cavaliers’ biggest offensive weapons, 37-year-old Kyle Korver finished as their leading scorer. Korver led the team with 17 points on 6-10 shooting, going 4-7 from beyond the arc. Even in his 16th season, this most likely won’t be his last game where he leads the team in scoring. Korver has always been an underrated athlete, but his shooting stroke and quick release are what will allow him to play as long as he wants.
Last season, the Cavaliers offensive and defensive efficiency improved with Korver on the floor. When Korver was on the court, the Cavaliers finished 2nd in the league in offensive efficiency at 114.4 points per 100 possessions. Defensively, they finished 9th in efficiency at 107.7 points per 100 possessions with Korver on, compared to 30th with him off.
You didn’t read that wrong. With Korver on the bench, the Cavaliers dropped from 9th in the league in defensive efficiency to worst in the league!
No single player can replace the offensive production LeBron brought to the Cavs. It’s on the entire group to collectively make up for what they lost after he left. Their new offensive system is focused on pushing the pace, giving everyone a green light to bring the ball up the floor after a defensive rebound. This will lead to more transitional looks for shooters on a fast break, as well as more offensive sets dedicated to generating open shots for players like Korver, rather than for LeBron to drive and find an open player himself.
Before the season, the Cavaliers shopped trades for Korver and George Hill, even looking into potential contract buyout options. Currently, I’d say these two are no longer on the trade block since the Cavaliers believe they have a real shot at making the playoffs and are not in tank-mode.
The Cavs need the on-court production provided by their vets if they’re really trying to make the playoffs, but what they provide off the court is where it will pay massive dividends in the future. The proper veteran leadership provided by Korver and Channing Frye is important in the development of Cleveland’s young talent. You can already see how Cedi is starting to emulate Korver’s shot technique and ability to utilize screens to create open looks. Korver is worth every penny the Cavs pay him if it leads to Cedi becoming his mirror image.
If this season begins poorly for the Cavs, the playoffs look like a lofty goal and Korver asks to be traded to a contender for one last shot at a ring, I feel the Cavs organization might be able to flip Korver for a decent return. The general feeling from the team though is they genuinely believe they’ll be competing for the 8-seed in the East. If that’s really the case, Korver will be a huge piece off the bench this season.