The 3 best ways for the Cavs to utilize Larry Nance Jr.

Cleveland Cavaliers big Larry Nance Jr. handles the ball. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers big Larry Nance Jr. handles the ball. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Larry Nance Jr. seems destined for another big season for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

As the Cleveland Cavaliers gear up for another season, several players will have to embrace a new role, and one of those will be Larry Nance Jr.

Granted, Nance, to go with Matthew Dellavedova, reportedly is in the NBA’s concussion protocol, per’s Chris Fedor, and Nance suffered a sprained a jaw in Monday’s preseason game versus the Indiana Pacers. Albeit while there’s no timetable set at this point, the “belief” is that Nance will be available for the 2020-21 season opener versus the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 23, per Fedor.

Anyway, despite this being just the sixth season for Nance, he is one of only three players left on the Cavaliers from the 2017-18 season and will be counted on as a veteran presence in a locker room full of younger players.

With the departure of Tristan Thompson and Ante Zizic, the Cavaliers frontcourt will have a different look this year. Nance saw 26.3 minutes per game last season, a minutes-share that could even go up this upcoming season.

There are quite a few ways to best utilize Nance in an expanded role in 2020-21.

We’ll demonstrate those for Nance for the Cavs here.

In all likelihood, Kevin Love and Andre Drummond will be the starting power forward and center, but beyond that, Nance seems like he will be the first big man off the bench.

While Nance will likely be a part of the second unit, getting minutes with the Cavaliers’ top guards will put Nance in a better position to succeed. With the attention more on players like Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr., Nance can utilize himself in a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop scenario with those quick guards.

In replacing Love off the bench, Nance can provide the Cavaliers with some offense, as he provided last season when he averaged a career-best 10.1 points per game. While Nance does not have Love’s scoring ability, he certainly is a great backup behind Love.

Nance hit 53.1 percent of his shots a season ago and even began taking (and making) three-pointers. The 6-foot-7 Nance only took 58 attempts from beyond the arc in his first three seasons, but in the past two seasons has put up 257 attempts from three-point range, connecting on 34.6 percent of those shots.

This says that in situations where Love is subbed out for Nance, the Cavaliers still have a viable threat at power forward who can stretch the floor, at least to some degree, and knock down shots.

The Cavs should use Nance in pick-and-pops

One way to ensure Nance gets open looks beyond the arc is running a two-man game with one of the Cavaliers’ many talented guards. For instance, if you have Collin Sexton and Nance in a two-man game, the threat of Sexton getting to the basket could allow Nance to pop out beyond the arc.

Nance, who hit 37.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot triple attempts in 2019-20, per’s shot tracking data, is an improving shooter. Considering that, getting him the ball via pick-and-pops beyond the arc is a great way to utilize his increasing ability to hit three-pointers.

From there, though, him as a roller should still be a viable way to get Nance involved.

The Cavs should still use Nance as a roller

Piggybacking off Nance playing in a two-man game pick-and-pop scenario, he could be even more effective as a roller. Though he is a bit undersized for a power forward/center role, Nance makes up for that with his tremendous leaping ability.

Even if Nance is not on the floor with Cleveland’s starting guards, Matthew Dellavedova is excellent at throwing that lob pass, and he and Nance could combine to be a nice reserve duo.

Additionally, with Nance’s improved touch, that should continue to pay off in these situations as well.

The third way to best use him is essentially a blending of styles.

The Cavs should continue to utilize Nance as an all-around big

While Nance has never really been in an ideal scenario during his time in the NBA, he seems to be finding his groove. Last year was Nance’s best statistical season, as he put up 10.1 points and grabbed 7.3 rebounds per game. Nance also was active on the defensive end of the floor, averaging one steal per game.

Though he will be 28 years old next month, Nance appears to be growing into becoming a quality rotation big man. He is trending in the right direction and is becoming an ideal player for today’s NBA game.

Nance can guard multiple positions, and his leaping ability sometimes makes up for his lack of height against other big men, albeit one wouldn’t consider him a rim protector, really. But looking both at the offensive end, Nance can also handle the ball fairly well and has good passing instincts; he had 2.2 assists last season and 3.2 in his last 15 games active.

While there is not one aspect of his game Nance is a star at (dunking aside), he is shaping up to be a well-rounded player, which is a valuable asset for the Cavaliers to have on their team. Nance is not hand-cuffed by any real limitations and can be used in several different roles and lineups.

Though he is largely judged by what he does on the court, Nance has also made it a point to give back to Northeast Ohio. After all, it is where he grew up. Just Wednesday Nance made it known he would help out local businesses around Northeast Ohio by wearing apparel from those businesses and promoting them to bring awareness/help those affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Nance also stated he will be selling his game-worn jersey and will match the price it sells for with all the money going to the local business he represents that game. And the cherry on top: Nance will donate the clothes back to local area homeless shelters after it is supported by him.

Having someone on your team that takes time to do good off the court is a great way to build a rock-solid culture. Nance is setting an example for these younger players at how to handle themselves like a professional.

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While Cleveland still appears to be in the middle of a rebuild, having a versatile player like Nance, who is easy to root for, is exactly what the Cavaliers need to get this team headed in the right direction.