The Cavs should start Larry Nance Jr. more throughout next season

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

Given his upward trajectory and with him being the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best all-around big, the Wine and Gold should start Larry Nance Jr. more throughout next season.

Leading into the NBA season’s novel coronavirus-induced suspension, Larry Nance Jr. was killing it for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In his last 15 games heading into that point, Nance averaged 12.9 points on 60.6 percent effective field goal shooting, to go with 7.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per contest, as noted by Nance was making full use of his 31.5 minutes per game in that stretch.

On the 2019-20 season to this point, Nance has put up a career-best 10.1 points per game, to go with 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals. He’s played a healthy 26.3 minutes per outing, which has been fine for the most part.

I also get that looking at next season, with Andre Drummond reportedly “likely” to pick up his $28.8 million player option, per’s Chris Fedor, and Kevin Love being Cleveland’s starting 4 on most occasions, Nance is likely to come off the bench again in most games. Whether or not the expiring Tristan Thompson is re-signed, of which a potential one-year deal would be perfectly fine from the Cavs’ perspective, for example, Nance should get more starting opportunities next season.

Realistically, though it’s not something he’s embraced doing much, I’d like see Love start at the 5 position at least a bit more next season, or at least have Nance start there or at the 4 alongside Love.

Now I know Nance is not nearly the rim protecting presence of Drummond, who has averaged 1.6 blocks per game in his near-eight NBA seasons, nor does Nance have Drummond’s 6-foot-10 size and 7-foot-6 wingspan. Drummond is also second in the NBA in steals thus far this season, as indicated by Basketball Reference.

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That being said, Nance is still an especially active rotator, still does get his share of blocks as a helper, and is much more switchable in terms of pick-and-roll coverage than Drummond, who is more so just an interior/paint defensive big.

Plus, although Drummond has more touch and polish in the post-up game than was previously the case, he’s still a non-shooter, and Nance, who has hit a career-high 35.2 percent from there, is a legitimate three-point shooting threat now via catch-and-shoots and pick-and-pops.

Nance also is a player that has similar playmaking instincts to that of Love, and Nance’s improved handle has made him a viable grab-and-go player after defensive rebounds, and that has made him even more of an impact player.

If the Cleveland Cavaliers gave him more chances to start next season, we’d likely see that more from Nance, too, which would help out the likes of the ultra-speedy Collin Sexton in the transition game.

Perhaps Nance starting more would happen if the Cavs ended up moving Drummond near next trade deadline, anyway, but even before that, I’d still like to see Nance get some instances as a starting 4/5 alongside Love. Of course, Nance has had some starts this season due to Love missing games in large part due to back-to-back instances and/or soreness, and Thompson and Drummond have missed time due to injury.

Overall, Nance has started 10 games out of the Cavs’ 65 played so far in 2019-20, which has been reasonable, I’d say.

I would again prefer for him to get more starting nods throughout next season, though, and on occasion, maybe at the 3 position over Cedi Osman, who is clearly not Cleveland’s long-term solution at the starting 3.

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I was skeptical of initially, but post-All-Star break, Nance proved to be a viable 3 man option for head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, too.

Playing off that, with his ability to guard pretty competently on the perimeter, and with him showcasing a better post-up game this season to go along with his three-point shooting improvements, and having very good passing vision, some instances of Nance starting at the 3 might be a nice wrinkle next season. That could allow the Love-Drummond pairing to develop more chemistry as well.

I’d imagine Dylan Windler, if he does not have further issues involved with the stress reaction in his left leg that has kept him sidelined in 2019-20, and is healthy next season, could be a potential long-term solution at the 3 for Cleveland and be an upgrade over Osman. Also, a promising player in Kevin Porter Jr. could very well get some chances in that starting 3 role.

Even so, Nance could again definitely be a viable option starting at the 3 in some instances for the Cavs, and earlier on in 2020-21, in particular.

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Hopefully we see more of Nance starting throughout next season at least at the 4 or 5, anyhow, given him continuing on an upward trajectory and being the Cavaliers’ best all-around big.