Larry Nance Jr. at elbows should still be viable for Cavs next season

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

Larry Nance Jr. has improved from the perimeter, but him at the elbows should still prove to be viable for the Cleveland Cavaliers next season.

It’s evident that Larry Nance Jr. is much-improved as a catch-and-shoot perimeter threat for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the 2019-20 campaign, he continued to show his growth in that realm for the Wine and Gold, as Nance hit a career-best 35.2 percent of his three-point attempts on 2.8 attempts per outing.

After J.B. Bickerstaff took over as Cleveland’s head coach, post-All-Star break, it was also really nice to see Nance utilized, thanks to his better handle and secondary playmaking ability, at times at the 3 position for Cleveland.

Even with Nance’s growth as a catch-and-shoot player, though, and still being a good on and off-ball screener for pieces such as Collin Sexton, Kevin Love and/or Kevin Porter Jr., him at the elbows next season should still be viable for Cleveland.

Nance at the elbows should still be featured at times for the Cleveland Cavaliers next season, because of his sound decision-making.

Now I’m not suggesting Nance at the elbows is going to be a look for the offense a ton of the time in his minutes on the floor.

That being said, with his impressive passing vision and timing for a big, coupled with better touch especially in that area he showcased in 2019-20, that should still be a solid option for Cleveland throughout games in 2020-21.

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Nance is not a player that’s going to be looking for shots a bunch of instances in games when operating at the elbows, necessarily, but again, he makes quality decisions there. In turn, that should still be a productive playtype for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Nance has the requisite feel to hit cutters and shooters in those instances, which is crucial for success in that realm. Plus, with he is often quicker and more athletic than other opposing bigs in primary coverage, and/or more physical than his matchups when he’s at the 3. That dynamic should lead to some built-in favorable looks for Nance as a scorer, as a result.

Opponents are going to be keyed in more to Porter, Sexton, feasibly Cedi Osman as a spot-up threat and likely Dylan Windler off-ball. Windler did not play in 2019-20 due to complications with a stress reaction in his left leg, but he is a heck of a shooter.

Factoring in those pieces as shooters/on-ball threats, I’d expect Nance at the elbows to still be able to create plenty of efficient offense, again in the playmaking and scoring sense.

While again Nance’s perimeter improvement has been a big positive the past two seasons, Bickerstaff and company should still feature Nance at the elbows, and give him a bit more freedom to create for himself off-the-bounce.

In that elbow area in the 2019-20 campaign, which officially ended per recent reports on Thursday for Cleveland, and of which you can view further reported details here, Nance averaged 2.9 touches per game, per Second Spectrum’s tracking data.

I’d expect a similar touch number in that spot for Nance next season, and again, not more, but with his better handle, in particular, he should be more of a scoring option in that regard via drives, and if help comes, he’s more than capable of finding dump-offs/initiating ball-swings.

Additionally, with him being a capable mid-range shooter that utilizes ball fakes to buy himself some room after opponents sag off a bit to prevent passes over the top, Jr. at the elbow should still present a variety of options for the Cavs’ offense.

Plus, if Nance is at the 3 occasionally in those instances, with him showing a bit more willingness to post-up in 2019-20, he could quickly get into a back-to-basket situation if the floor spaces for him to do so. That’d enable him to still playmake a bit.

Also, though, Nance, who placed in the 92nd percentile on post-ups, per Synergy Sports, albeit on only a 7.9 percent frequency, could quickly get closer to the basket, where he could get into a short range fadeaway, an area he flashed at times last season.

Moreover, next season, even with him being a more legitimate perimeter shooting threat to go with still being a key screening presence, the Cleveland Cavaliers should still use Nance at the elbows at times throughout games.

He is a capable secondary playmaker that averaged a respectable 2.2 assists per game last season, including 3.2 in his last 15 games, and displayed a much better handle.

That should result in him still being utilized with some elbow touches next season, even with pieces such as Love, Porter, Windler and/or Osman likely on the floor with him at various times in games.

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Nance consistently makes sound decisions in that area with the ball, and the Cavs get quality looks with him in that role.