One Team One Stat: Cleveland Cavaliers lose their 3-point generator
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have to find a new source for offense.
Over the last four seasons, the Cavs have ranked second in both 3-point percentage and the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range.
In 3-point percentage, the Cavs only trail the Golden State Warriors (duh) over the last four years. In the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range, the Cavs only trail the Houston Rockets (duh, part II).
Over the last four years, the Cavs were built around the unique talents of LeBron James, who made or assisted on 1,621 (43 percent) of the Cavs’ 3,754 3-pointers over the four seasons (59 percent of the 3-pointers the team made with him on the floor). James’ teams have now ranked in the top six in offensive efficiency for 10 straight seasons.
James is gone, but the shooters that complemented him are still around. The Cavs have five players — Channing Frye, George Hill, Kyle Korver, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith — who rank in the top 50 in 3-point percentage (minimum of 500 attempts) over the last three years. No other team has more than three.
The question now is how those shooters are going to get fed.
The primary candidate to (try to) fill the void left by James is Love. The five-time All-Star can’t create off the dribble like James, but he might be able to create from the post (on the block or even at the elbow).
Love hasn’t exactly been a high-volume post player. Last season he ranked 20th with 4.5 post-ups per game and 93rd with just 1.6 elbow touches per game. Even in his last season in Minnesota, Love’s 8.8 post-ups per game ranked 11th.
Furthermore, in his four years in Cleveland, only 28 percent of the shots taken off of Love’s passes have come from 3-point range. Over the same time, 46 percent of the shots taken off of James’ passes have come from 3-point range.
That comparison isn’t fair to Love, of course. James is the greatest producer of open 3-point shots that this league has ever seen. But that discrepancy — 46 percent vs. 28 percent — is worth noting as Cleveland tries to reconstruct its offense without the guy who has produced so much of its offense over the last four years.
As for his own 3-point shooting, Love will miss having James around. Over the last four seasons, Love has shot 39 percent from 3-point range with James on the floor and just 31 percent with James off the floor. The percentage of his total shots that have come from 3-point range has been much higher with James on the floor as well.
The last time James left Cleveland, the Cavs suffered the biggest winning percentage drop in NBA history. They shouldn’t suffer as much this time, but it will be fascinating to see how they generate offense, even with one All-Star still left on the roster.
Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).
CAVS NOTES – GENERAL
- Had the league’s third biggest differential between their actual wins and their “expected wins” (based on point differential). Were 50-32 with the point differential of a team that was 44-38.
- Only team that was undefeated in the regular season (they were 39-0) when leading after the third quarter. Went 11-1 in the playoffs, losing Game 3 of the first round in Indiana after leading by six after three.
- Also had the league’s second best record (41-5) when leading by double-digits.
- One of two teams that had a better NetRtg on the road (plus-1.1 points per 100 possessions) than at home (plus-1.0).
- Outscored their opponents by a total of just 24 points over the first, second and third quarters last season, but were a plus-46 in the fourth.
- Outscored by 40 points over seven games in the first round against Indiana. That was the worst point differential for a team that won a series in 16 years of the current playoff format (four-game first round).
CAVS NOTES – OFFENSE
- One of three teams that saw a drop in both 3-point percentage (from 38.4 percent to 37.2 percent) and the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range (from 40 percent to 38 percent) from 2016-17 to ’17-18. Only team that made one fewer 3-pointer per game than they did in ’16-17.
- Still led the league in 3-point percentage on wide-open threes at 42.2 percent. And were still the only team that ranked in the top five in both the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range (fourth) and the percentage of their threes that came from the corners (fourth).
- The 68.5 percent they shot in the restricted area is the highest mark for any team in the 22 years for which we have shot location data. James shot 75 percent in the restricted area, responsible for 35 percent of the team’s buckets there.
- Ranked second in clutch offense, scoring 121 points per 100 possessions with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, even though they ranked 23rd in clutch 3-point percentage (29 percent).
- The 121.5 points per 100 possessions that they scored in the conference semis vs. Toronto was the fourth best OffRtg for any team in a playoff series over the last 20 years. (The highest mark – 126.9 – belongs the the 2017 Cavs in the conf. finals vs. Boston.) The 8.2 turnovers per 100 possessions they committed against Toronto were the fewest for any team in a playoff series over the last 20 years.
CAVS NOTES – DEFENSE
- First team in the last 11 years to rank in the bottom three in defensive efficiency and make the playoffs. In the 35 years since the playoffs went to a 16-team format, they were the first team to rank in the bottom three defensively in the regular season and win a playoff series.
- Were the worst defensive team (allowing 117.7 points per 100 possessions in 21 games) against the league’s top 10 offenses.
- Ranked 26th in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (58 percent) and 25th in opponent effective field goal percentage from outside the paint (51 percent).
- Allowed 257 corner 3-pointers, second most in the league and just one fewer than the Knicks allowed (258).
- Allowed 1.01 points per possession on isolations, the worst mark in the league. Also ranked last at 1.19 points allowed per possession on roll-man possessions.
- Allowed the Warriors to score 120.1 points per 100 possessions in The Finals. That was the fifth best OffRtg for any team in a playoff series over the last 20 years.
CAVS NOTES – LINEUPS
- Most-used lineup that includes five players still on the roster played just 12 minutes together last season.
- Only two remaining two-man combinations, Smith-Love and Smith-Tristan Thompson, played at least 500 minutes together last season.
- Love played 79 percent of his minutes at center last season, but James was on the floor for 95 percent of those center minutes.
- In the regular season, they were only 3.0 points per 100 possessions better with James on the floor (plus-1.7) than they were with him off the floor (minus-1.3). That was his smallest on-off NetRtg differential in the 11 seasons for which we have the stat. (It was 16.2 points per 100 possessions the season prior.)
CAVS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Jordan Clarkson shot 10-for-51 (20 percent) from 3-point range in the first quarter, the worst mark for any player in a quarter in which he attempted at least 50 3-pointers.
- In the playoffs, Clarkson had an effective field goal percentage of 34.6 percent, the worst mark among 92 players with at least 50 postseason field goal attempts.
- George Hill averaged just 10 points per game (with Sacramento and Cleveland) last season, down from 16.9 ppg (with Utah) the season prior. That was the second biggest points-per-game drop among 260 players who played in at least 40 games each season.
- Rodney Hood (15.1 ppg) and Clarkson (13.7 ppg) had the league’s third-and fifth-highest scoring averages off the bench (min. 30 games off the bench) in the regular season. In the playoffs, Hood averaged just 5.4 ppg, down from 14.7 ppg (as a starter or reserve) in the regular season. That was the biggest drop among 175 players who played in at least four postseason games. Clarkson (from 13.9 to 4.7 ppg) saw the second biggest drop.
- Kyle Korver shot 61-for-121 (50.4 percent) on wide-open 3-pointers, the second best mark among players who attempted at least 100. He attempted 78 percent of his shots from 3-point range, the third-highest rate among 222 players with at least 400 field goal attempts. Only nine percent of his shots came in the paint, the lowest rate among those same 222 players.
- Ninety-seven percent (215/222) of Korver’s field goals were assisted. That was the highest rate among 214 players with at least 200 field goals.
- Kevin Love had an effective field goal percentage of 57 percent in quarters 1-3 and just 42 percent in the fourth.
- Love had an effective field goal percentage of 70.8 percent on wide-open jumpers, the second best mark among 55 players who attempted at least 200.
- Opponents shot 66 percent at the rim when Love was there to protect it. That was the second-worst rim protection mark among players who defended at least four shots at the rim per game.
- Larry Nance Jr. shot 72 percent in the restricted area, the fifth-best mark among 85 players with at least 250 restricted area attempts.
- In the playoffs, Nance had an effective field goal percentage of 68.3 percent, the second-best mark among 92 players with at least 50 postseason field goal attempts.
- David Nwaba shot 32 percent on drives, the second-worst mark among 154 players who attempted at least 100 shots on drives.
- J.R. Smith took 51 percent of his shots from 3-point range after the All-Star break, down from 70 percent before the break. That was the biggest drop in 3PA/FGA among 203 players with at least 250 field goal attempts before the break and 150 after it. Hood had the third biggest drop (from 48 percent to 32 percent).
NBA TV’s Cavs preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 4.
* * *
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.