Larry Nance Jr. was establishing himself as Cavs’ third-best player

Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Leading into the NBA season’s suspension, Larry Nance Jr. was establishing himself as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ third-best player, and his arrow is pointing up.

The 2019-20 NBA season is on suspension until further notice for the Cleveland Cavaliers and other teams, given concerns regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the league was seemingly “angling” towards the season being cancelled, per a report on Friday from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Nothing’s certain, though, and as far other reported updates for alternative scenarios/potential financial impact of a cancelled season, you can view those here.

In the stretch leading up to the season’s suspension, which began on March 11, the Cavs were playing pretty well, and were 5-6 post-All-Star break with J.B. Bickerstaff taking over as head coach.

To quickly recap, that suspension came after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, and since he and most other players named that have reportedly tested positive have recovered, as you can view here and also here, courtesy of KJG’s Billy Beebe.

Swinging back to the Cavs, though, they were again, playing well under the direction of Bickerstaff, and were sixth in the NBA in assist rate and tenth in effective field goal shooting clip post-All-Star, as compared to 24th and 22nd on the season, according to

It’s clear that Collin Sexton, who had averaged 24.5 points per in his last 15 games leading into the season’s suspension, to go with 4.3 assists and 1.0 steals in that span, is arguably the team’s best player at the moment.

I’d still probably put Kevin Love in that spot at the moment, with his inside-out polish, the spacing he provides for others, the big man playmaking he provides and his elite defensive rebounding prowess, but it’s pretty close. I also believe Sexton should be the Cavs’ primary option next season, but leading into the season’s suspension, Larry Nance Jr. was establishing himself as the third-best player on Cleveland.

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While Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr., especially, are promising young pieces, and I believe are just scratching the surface of their potential, the arrow for Nance is pointing way up looking at, if the season is eventually cancelled, which is seemingly a possibility, next season.

On the 2019-20 season, Nance has averaged what is on track for a career-high in points with 10.1 per game, as indicated by Basketball Reference, to go with 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals per contest.

Furthermore, in his last 15 games, Nance had 12.9 points per outing (which was fourth on the Cavs), to go with 7.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and averaged a tied for team-leading 1.5 steals with Andre Drummond, according to

Nance also was second on Cleveland behind only Matthew Dellavedova in assist-to-turnover ratio post-All-Star, too, and excluding two-way contributor Matt Mooney and Dante Exum (who was only active in three games in that span due to a left ankle sprain), Nance was fourth on Cleveland in net rating in that span.

Anyhow, to me, with Nance continuing to showcase his versatility, improved ability as a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter, and with him being another key secondary playmaker at the elbows/on the wing, along with his terrific team defensive feel, he’s one of the most valuable players on the Cavs’ roster.

In what was definitely a welcome surprise, too, Nance proved to be a viable option at the 3 in stretches of some matchups, and with his fluidity in getting around off-ball screens to contest shooters, combined with his improved post-up feel and offensive rebounding presence, that only enhances his value for Bickerstaff moving forward.

Additionally, it’s been a pleasure to see Nance be a grab-and-go threat for Cleveland after defensive rebounds and/or leakouts more and more in 2019-20, where his decision-making in transition is among the best on the Cavs. Plus, with his athleticism at the rim, he’s definitely one of the Cavs’ best transition scoring threats, too.

Along with that, in both transition and in settled offense, Nance’s presence as a lob threat makes players such as Garland, Sexton and Porter, in particular, more dangerous by putting opposing bigs in a bind on whether or not to close hard or protect against the lob, often in pick-and-roll situations.

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Also, unlike Drummond, or Tristan Thompson, who is expiring and is reportedly likely to be playing elsewhere next season, Nance being a realistic threat from deep and as a face-up player in the mid-range area makes him much more than just a lob/rolling threat, and again, Nance is one of Cleveland’s best passers.

So in summation, given the consistency he’s shown for a good chunk, the energy he provides, him being arguably Cleveland’s best team defender with switchability in a bunch of instances, him being a low-turnover secondary creator, and with him showing more and more inside-out scoring capability, Nance was establishing himself as Cleveland’s third-best player.

Could the likes of Porter or Garland take hold of that feasibly next season? Certainly, and especially if Love is perhaps traded at some point down the road, which is always seemingly a possibility.

At this time, however, it’s clear that Nance is one of Cleveland’s most reliable players, and he’s gotten better and better, and the 27-year-old will likely be one of the Cavs’ key leaders moving forward, too.

He also recently donated $50,000 to each of the Greater Cleveland and Akron-Canton Regional Food Banks to help those in need during this ever-difficult time as well, just further proving that notion.

Hopefully Nance, who touched on how him having Crohn’s disease makes him more at-risk to contract COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic‘s Kelsey Russo (subscription required), can, along with other players, stay healthy during this time.

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Again, though, to me, Nance was establishing himself as the Cavs’ third-best player leading up to the NBA’s season suspension, and he clearly has an integral role for Bickerstaff and company going forward as an all-around contributor.