Cavs: Larry Nance Jr.’s playmaking is here to stay, early season will show

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.’s continued to show that he can make help his teammates for the Cleveland Cavaliers get good looks.

In the 2018-19 season, Larry Nance Jr. had 3.2 assists per outing, which was a career-best for him to this point. Now, Kevin Love, a quality passing big, not being healthy for the Cleveland Cavaliers had some to do with that from Nance, sure.

Nance had 2.2 assists per outing last season, conversely, and Love was mostly available. Albeit Nance still had a 12.6 percent assist rate, which was still a pretty healthy clip, and even more so for mostly a bench big.

Looking onward, it’s evident that Nance should be an active ball-mover/secondary playmaker for the Cavaliers, too. And after leading into the prior season’s novel coronavirus-induced hiatus/ultimately the end of 2019-20 for Cleveland, Nance was especially active in that way.

In Nance’s last 15 games active, while he did have a higher scoring clip, as he averaged 12.9 points as compared to 10.1 per outing on the year, his passing was featured a bunch, too. He in that span had 3.2 assists per contest, and had an assist rate of 14.8 percent.

It’s abundantly clear at this point, that when he’s in there, the Cavaliers and now-head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will definitely allow Nance to playmake more and more. We’ll be reminded of that in early season, too.

Early season action for the Cavs will show how Nance’s playmaking help is here to stay.

I know that players such as Darius Garland for one, to go with Collin Sexton and Isaac Okoro, one would think, are set to aid Cleveland’s playmaking efforts. Cedi Osman should do the same, but early on, Nance will again further prove that his playmaking is here to stay for the Cavs looking onward, I would think.

That was apparent to me, at least when he’s out there, anyway, but he’ll remind us of his ability to help as a playmaker again in the early going.

The Cavaliers were without the likes of Kevin Love (right calf strain), Matthew Dellavedova (concussion) and Dante Exum (left hip soreness) in their opener on Wednesday, to go with Kevin Porter Jr. Love could reportedly not be in action this weekend, for one, as well.

And Porter is still being worked back into the fold after him missing a good chunk of training camp/all of preseason. Porter’s legal matters appear to be behind him, though, and hopefully, he and those other guys are back available for Cleveland soon.

In any case, while again he’s not going to have the playmaking volume of say a Garland or Love perhaps, or a Delly (when he’s in), when Nance is out there, the Cavs will continue to utilize him as a key secondary playmaker.

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Nance usually makes sound decisions with the ball, but has good vision and passing feel for a big, and that will lead to high percentage looks for cutters/shooters, such as Okoro and Garland, among others. And Nance’s handoffs often lead to productive drives, or for others to lead into in-rhythm pull-ups.

We saw his playmaking on display versus the Charlotte Hornets in the 2020-21 Cavs Opener on Wednesday, too.

Nance had an expanded role with Love out, sure, albeit he again reminded us that for Bickerstaff and company, he’ll be able to help out the youngsters as a playmaker when he’s in the game.

That’s whether he’s a spot starter at times, such as Wednesday, in which he had eight assists; granted seven came in the first half, albeit he consistently aided those around him. In an overall sense, regardless, this is a Nance trend that won’t be short-lived.

Again, the inactives played into it. However, with the improved spot-up shooting, of which he placed in the 65th percentile in spot-up scoring last season, per Synergy Sports, and better handle for Nance, he’ll be ever more capable as a passer.

Moreover, he had those eight assists against the Hornets, and it just demonstrated that, if needed, he can initiate things a fair amount of the time for the Cavs in settled offense. Early on, with some guys banged up, that’ll be key for Cleveland, even more so.

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That’s reassuring to know, too, but overall, also when considering his basketball intellect/feel for the game, I’m sure guys love playing with Nance.