When it comes to naming disappointing Cavalier players from the 2011-12 season, small forward Omri Casspi is one of the first names that comes to mind. He started last year’s campaign as a starter for the identity-seeking Wine and Gold, but slowly saw his position taken by upstart and exciting bench player Alonzo Gee. Since the time that Casspi lost his starting job, Gee has played at the three and has done a fine job for a player that should be coming off the bench. Casspi finished the season averaging 7.1 points and shooting 40.3 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from three.
Through the last seven games, however, Casspi has been the glue off the bench that has held together the long-range game. The Israeli player has shot 56.0 percent from three during that span, averaging 8.8 points in six games off the bench. With the size disadvantage in the most recent game against the Detroit Pistons, Byron Scott opted to start Casspi in place of the injured Dion Waiters and smaller Daniel Gibson. With injuries to the juvenile backcourt, the bench has been pressed to produce.
Earlier on in the season, with Irving still in the lineup, the replacements, save Gibson, have failed to provide the spark in the second and third units. Gibson, who is battling an injury of his own, has been the only “consistent” scorer off the bench so far this season. With Casspi starting to find his stroke from beyond the arc, that could change and become really dangerous once Cleveland regains their full squad back.
The reason I am happy with the recent play of the former Sacramento King is due to his shot selection. Waiters’ shot selection from long range has been fire at times, but in recent showings he has been shooting like the immature rookie we saw in summer league and training camp. To compare Casspi’s and Waiters’ last seven games from deep is, in a way, unfair because Casspi is nowhere close to the level of play that Waiters has reached at certain points this season. He’s second in the league in rookie scoring (averaging 15.2 points), but is 17th in field goal percentage (36.3 percent).
In Dion’s last seven performances, he has put up 6.6 three points per game, but has only converted on 28.3 percent of those shots. In comparison, Casspi has averaged 3.6 attempts from three, and even converted on all four attempts in the showing against the Miami Heat. He’s not taking too many threes, but the shot he struggled with all of last year is finally starting to fall. The work he put in in Israel is showing, and if he can continue this production off the bench, I’ll be a happy guy.
To make Casspi’s seven-game stretch look even better, let’s take a quick look at what the Cavs’ best bench player, Gibson, has done. He’s shot a lot better than last season, but has been streaky at most times. He’s putting up 4.9 threes per game and is converting 39.2 percent of them, which is a respectable mark through 15 games. He has also averaged 8.5 points, but Cleveland needs more from off the bench if they want to make it out of Irving’s injury alive.
Casspi didn’t get playing time earlier on in the season, but has finally seemed to have earned back coach Scott’s trust. He’s shooting a lot better from the field, which is reassuring because last season was a disaster for him in my opinion. Less is more, however, for the former first round pick. Getting trigger happy is something that shouldn’t be a part of Casspi’s game, and he’s been able to avoid that thus far.