Larry Nance Jr. Needs to Start
Photo Courtesy of Tony Dejak, Associated Press
For all their talk about avoiding a long-term rebuild in the second post-LeBron James era, the Cleveland Cavaliers have looked every bit as abysmal as the ill-fated 2010-2011 team that saw its win total drop 42 wins from the previous season - the biggest drop in NBA history. Their only hope of a bright future not predicated on winning the lottery three times in four years will require a concerted youth movement -- and a player who should be on the forefront of it is Larry Nance Jr.
The Cavs recognized that he would be an important part of their future before he even wore the wine and gold: the trade with the Lakers last season was contingent on Nance's inclusion. Then, shortly before the season began, they lavished him with a four-year, 45 million dollar contract extension to make sure he would remain with the team for the foreseeable future. Why, then, does he come off the bench behind eminent known quantity Tristan Thompson?
Larry Nance Jr. still has room to grow, and his stats show that the does more with his court time than Thompson ever has. Last season, Nance Jr. averaged a 15-12 per 36 minutes, with two steals and a block to go with them. Thompson hasn't averaged 13 ppg in half a decade, and only once has averaged that many boards. And despite spending most of his career toiling for some mediocre Lakers teams, his net rating surpasses that of Thompson, who spend more than half of his on Finals-bound Cavs squads.
Nance Jr. has the elite athleticism necessary to play the five in the smaller, faster NBA; he can switch, he can run, and he can dunk with the best of them. It's time to give Larry Nance Jr. the starting role and let him run with it, to find out if they have solved the center position, or if the franchise rebuild will require a man in the middle as well.