Shooting was a huge concern for the Cavaliers over the past couple seasons under Byron Scott. In fact, they’ve been dreadful at it: The Cavs have been the 29th best shooting team in the league in each of the past three years, via Basketball-Reference. Three-point shooting hasn’t been much better, with the Cavs finishing 23rd in ‘11 and ‘13, with a peak of 15th in ‘12. However, with the development of the players coming back, as well as the additions of Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack, Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev, the Cavs should be a lot better at shooting the ball this year. But how much better?
This is the Cavs shot chart from last year. As you can see, the Cavs were incredibly average at pretty much everything last year, except corner threes, where they were ATROCIOUS. That should change dramatically this year, with a new coaching scheme and guys besides Alonzo Gee who might be able to hit that shot. The Cavs also will probably see a change to their shot distribution as well. Outside the paint, the Cavs launched an almost absurd number of wing threes, accounting for 14 percent of their total shots. Corner threes were predictably left alone, due to the struggles they had from that spot. Overall, the Cavs took 43 percent of their shots in the paint, 34 percent from mid-range and 22 percent from three. I expect that to stay similar this year, but the distribution should change.
With so many new pieces on the roster, the shot chart should change a lot. First, the Cavs are adding Jack and Clark, two decent mid-range shooters. Jack is particularly deadly from the elbows, hitting a fairly ridiculous 54 percent from around the free throw line and almost 45 percent from the right wing. These were problem areas for the Cavs, and he should be able to kill teams in these areas again, particularly off the pick and roll. Meanwhile, Clark does well from the left wing (56 percent), and he was roughly league average last season from the corners, which is where I think he should be able to grow. Clark didn’t have many chances from this spot last year with the Lakers, taking just 26 corner threes, but he did well in his first real chance at this spot, and if allowed to assume this role, I’d expect this growth to continue.
Another great help will be the additions in the post, though none are conventional additions. First is the return of Anderson Varejao. Varejao isn’t the best finisher, but he historically has been an effective shooter from the left side of the floor. Last year he hit 56 percent from the baseline to the elbow and 44 percent from the elbow, and that should improve the Cavs abilities from mid-range as much as Clark and Jack will. Second, you get Tristan Thompson’s hand change and subsequent effectiveness on a haphazard Team Canada this past week. Thompson has looked like he has a jump shot, and since he took a whole 12 shots from outside 16 feet last season, should improve offensive spacing with more confidence in a deep shot. I’d also expect him to finish better than 51 percent at the rim. Finally, there’s the actual addition, Andrew Bynum. While Bynum’s 12-13 shot chart should have a sad trombone playing when you visit, and his jumper is probably wrecked, he’s still a dominant force if he plays inside, hitting 61 percent in 11-12. These three should also help shore up the mid-range game, as well as help a team that shot 50.7 percent at the rim.
Finally, we have to address Dion Waiters. Yes, the chart is as gross as the numbers. Yes, players like Waiters normally don’t improve much in their second season. But still…..the situation change has to benefit him, right? I think it’s kind of absurd to think he won’t get better at the rim, especially with better post and pick-and-roll threats opening up things for him to beat people off the dribble. If the coaching staff can stop him from taking dumb jumpers and turning into a more athletic Jordan Crawford, I don’t think it’s impossible for Waiters to improve his shooting by taking more chances at the rim and wayyyyyy less away from the basket.
The Cavs should perform a lot better than 29th in the league this season in field goal percentage. They will be replacing Alonzo Gee’s absurd minutes, Luke Walton and Wayne Ellington with Jack, Clark and Bennett and should improve their mid-range shooting because of it. The improved post players, as well as Dion Waiters’ hopeful improvement, should also make a gash in a pretty mediocre inside scoring game as well. I think the Cavs could still have issues from deep, but Bennett and Jack should help that game improve slightly, and if Karasev can adapt to the NBA quickly, that’s going to help as well. Kyrie Irving will also still be doing Kyrie things on offense, which is always welcome. Together, these pieces should transform the Cavs into a much more efficient attack in 13-14.