The Trick to the Trade: Why Kyle Korver Might Be the Key
The first major trade of the NBA season took place last week, when the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for shooting guard Kyle Korver. The Cavs sent the Atlanta Hawks Mo Williams, Mike Dunleavy, and a protected 2019 first round pick in exchange for the sharp shooter’s service. While Korver, who will turn 36 in March, isn’t the same player that he was in his hay-day, the man can still knock down an open jump shot. That alone, might be the key for the Cavaliers to repeat as champions.
The “Jirving” Effect
Don’t call the Cavs a “jump shooting” team. Yes, they are amongst the best in the league in three pointers attempted, made, and percentage. Yes, they have two ball handlers that create three point opportunities for themselves as well as everyone else on the team. Yes, outside of Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Tristan Thompson, everyone else’s offensive job is to stand on the three point line and be ready to fire, but they are not, I repeat, ARE NOT a jump shooting team! They just happen to be really, really, good at shooting threes. They made it rain in the first two and half rounds of the playoffs last year, and this year, despite and poor shooting year from J.R. Smith, the team is shooting it at an unbelievable clip.
Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Channing Frye are all on pace to have shoot their career best from beyond the arc, and it’s all because of the “Jirving” effect. The “Jirving” effect is the wide open shots that Cavs players are getting because of the drive-and-kick plays that both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving create for the team. That coupled with the ball movement that the players have bought into, players are getting wide open looks and are taking advantage of the increased air space.
Now the “Jirving” effect isn’t anything new to a LeBron James led team, with Heat used the same method, back when LeBron still had his talents in South Beach. However, this Cavs team is a little younger, and more athletic that those Heat teams, and now that most of the team has been together for three years, the chemistry and understanding of how to play together is really showcasing itself.
“The one thing that’s been a major difference now that we’re in year three is that everyone is just so comfortable in their role,” Irving said. “Guys are standing there ready to shoot. They just know that the ball can find them at any moment, so they’re ready to let it fly.”
So how does this translate to Korver, who is new to the team, and hasn’t played with anyone on the Cavs before? Korver, at age 35, right now is most effective as a stand-still, catch-and-shoot, kind of player. In Atlanta, he had to run through two or three screens to get open and at his age, that might have hurt his shot rather than help it. Not only would that be tiring, but good defensive teams could probably keep up with Korver, or just switch the picks, causing Korver to still have to take contested shots.
On Cleveland, because of the “Jirving” Effect, Korver won’t have to run around on offense to get open, he can find his sweet spots, and stand there ready to shoot. Also, because defenses have to respect James and Irving’s driving abilities, once the ball has been kicked out and passed around, Korver will most likely be shooting wide open shots from the spots.
Like most great shooters, and Korver is one of the best sharp shooters the game has ever seen, Korver shoots a much higher percentage on his shots when they’re uncontested. In his prime, it wouldn’t have mattered whether or not a hand was in his face or not, unless you blocked the shot, it was probably going in. But now that Korver is in his final stages of his career, he will greatly benefit from getting more wide open looks.
Filling in a Role and a Need
The Cavaliers are thin at the guard spot to say the least. As I wrote last time, the Cavs still need to find a quality backup point guard to spell Irving when he needs a rest. Now that the Korver trade has gone through, I expect another deal to be made before the trade deadline to get that point guard. Besides that, the second biggest need that the Cavs needed was help at the two-guard.
Now I know I just explained that the Cavs are shooting the lights out of the building, and that two-guard Iman Shumpert was having a career year beyond the arc. However, with J.R. Smith out for the remainder of the regular season with a broken thumb, a lot of the two-guard duties are being handled by youngsters DeAndre Liggins and Jordan Mcrae.
Both Liggins and McCrae are having decent years, but the Cavs don’t want to put too much on their plates heading into the postseason. Especially McCrae who’s also helping out with the backup point guard spot at the moment. Having a veteran like Korver that can come in and provide some quality minutes will help the team out tremendously.
Korver won’t be as much help defensively as the young guys will be, but he can come in and give put up points off the bench, for all the reasons I stated earlier. Korver will be perfect to have in the rotation until Smith comes back, then having them both on the team only increases the Cavs fire power even more.
Last year, the Cavs traded for Channing Frye, and even though he wasn’t a household name, his presence boosted the Cavs tremendously. I think Korver can have the same effect. Imagine, even if it’s in small spurts off the bench, the lineup of Irving, James, Korver, Frye, and Love. The amount of wide open three pointers that lineup could shoot, and more importantly, make will be ridiculous. They could then mix and match different combinations with Smith, Richard Jefferson, and James Jones. The Cavs might have created their own “death lineup” for the playoffs, and no one is going to want to share the court with them when they decide the dial it up. The simple trade for Korver might have locked in a second championship for the Cavaliers, and they’ll win it one three at a time.