Should Kyle Korver be a starter?

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Kyle Korver
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Kyle Korver /

Are the recent contributions of Kyle Korver enough for him to capture a permanent spot in the Cleveland Cavaliers starting lineup?

With Kevin Love’s long-awaited return and the upcoming returns of both Larry Nance Jr. and Tristan Thompson, the Cleveland Cavaliers frontcourt is nearing full-health. When fully healthy, Love and LeBron James should be expected to man both forward spots while either Nance Jr. or Thompson mans the center position to provide rim-protection and additional help on the boards.

The backcourt will have Rodney Hood back soon too and though they’ve missed the playmaking he can provide from the wings, Kyle Korver has stepped up in Hood’s absence and provided a huge lift for the Cavaliers starters in the forms of consistency and making the right play, forcing the Cavaliers into a tough spot.

Do they start Hood or Korver? Furthermore, is starting J.R. Smith still an option?

The Cleveland Cavaliers have went 2-1 with Korver as a starter and his veteran savvy has served as a catalyst for their recent success. Korver has averaged 17.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 60.7 percent from the field, 55.0 percent from three-point range and 88.9 percent from the charity stripe in his last three games, with the Cavaliers using his gravity to manipulate defenses and open up easy opportunities inside.

On defense, Korver has been surprisingly solid, moving his feet well laterally and coming up with plenty of timely strips and blocks. His effort to keep opposing players off the offensive glass is overlooked too.

To add, Korver has been a far more consistent three-point threat than either Hood or Smith, two other players that have started on the wing for the Cavaliers this season. That’s both in terms of their shooting from the field (45.8 percent compared to 40.7 percent for Hood and 38.9 percent for Smith) and their three-point range (44.0 percent compared to 31.8 percent for Hood and 36.5 percent for Smith).

If Hood’s career had started 12 games ago (or Smith’s career had started this season), the answer would undoubtedly be Korver but the overall body of work has to be taken into account as well.

Smith has been the starting shooting guard for the Cavaliers for three seasons, with his tough shot-making from the outside and defensive tenacity transforming the Cavs on both ends. This season, however, Smith’s streakiness has been magnified by the Cavaliers’ struggles and his playmaking on both ends has been inconsistent as well.

When Smith is on, he’s on.

When he’s off though, his play and his shot-selection are a sight for sore eyes.

To his credit, Smith acknowledges as much. Well… kind of.

Per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:

"“My performance has been steady — it has not been great, it’s been a lot of bad shooting nights — so it’s been a pretty steady pace,” Smith said."

Unfortunately, as a starter, that inconsistency is beginning to put the Cavs behind the eight ball at times when they get off to a slow start.

Prior to being traded to the Cavaliers, Hood was averaging a career-high 16.8 points per game with the Utah Jazz and shooting a career-high 38.9 percent from three-point range to boot. It had been the latest step in his incremental growth as a scorer.

Hood has been a growing force as a pick-and-roll playmaker over the last couple of seasons and has typically been a knockdown shooter, whether he’s spotting up or pulling up.

Where Korver can make the right pass and right read to be a playmaker, he’s unable to consistently take defenders off-the-dribble like Hood can.

However, Hood isn’t quite sure where to get his shots and fit in with the starters after 5 games in the starting unit. His comfort was coming along but he looked more at ease coming off the bench and being as aggressive as he wanted to be.

With that said, so close to the postseason, it’s the heady offensive play from Korver rather than just his consistency that should see him emerge as a permanent starter.

In the event that happens, this is how the rotation should look.

*George Hill, **Jordan Clarkson

*Kyle Korver, **J.R. Smith

*LeBron James, **Rodney Hood

*Kevin Love, **Jeff Green

*Larry Nance Jr., **Tristan Thompson

* – starter

** – second unit

Hood should be the first sub off the bench, effectively making him a sixth man who can play a multitude of roles on the perimeter.

Nance Jr. should be the first player to go to the bench so that the Cavaliers can take advantage of the mismatches that come along with James playing at power forward, like James’ ability to dominate his man physically, and those that come with Love playing at center, like drawing rim-protectors out to the three-point line.

With the improved defensive ability of the backcourt personnel following the trade deadline and the defensive activity of their forwards, Love’s pick-and-roll defense is less apt to being exposed. So long as he remains active himself and the team does a good job of communicating on defense, he’ll be fine at the center position.

To that point, it’s possible they’d opt to start Love at center. However, because it mucks up the second unit by placing both Nance Jr. and Thompson on the bench, two centers who have fairly similar skillsets, it’s unlikely. Furthermore, Nance Jr.’s interior defense, basketball IQ, pick-and-pop ability, rebounding and gravity would be useful for the Cavaliers’ starting lineup.

Whether or not Korver starts, he’ll be an integral piece of the team’s rotation and success.

Expect him to play at least 20.0 minutes per night and spend plenty of those minutes beside James.

In 875 minutes, the duo of Korver and James has outscored opponents by 11.3 points per 100 possessions, making for their best two-man lineup this season. To add, Korver has a net rating of +13.9, with only +3.4 points per 100 possessions coming on the offensive end.

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*All stats gathered from