The NBA’s newest super-team in the Brooklyn Nets made their debut against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. While NBA fans tuned in to watch the league’s new Big Three, they ended up watching the Cavaliers bring it home in double-overtime, besting the Nets.
That was with Collin Sexton putting up a career high 42 points, 22 of which came after the fourth quarter, and that led Cleveland to a resounding victory over the Nets, 147-135.
This game had significance in a plethora of ways, as it was Sexton’s first game back after being out five games due to a left ankle sprain, and it was the first game featuring Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden all playing together, and it was the debut of Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince as Cavaliers.
It is evident that Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes in Jarrett Allen, as the new big man in The Land played 31 minutes in that outing. Although it was only his first game with Cleveland, Allen already looks like he is going to be a major contributor to this team. Cleveland’s new center had company in the frontcourt as Larry Nance Jr. had a game himself as well.
Jarrett Allen’s debut for the Wine and Gold saw the new center racking up a double-double with 12 points, and 11 rebounds, along with four blocks. With Kevin Love out due to a right calf strain/reaggravation of that, Nance has had to step up big-time at the 4 spot.
In fact, with Love out, Nance proved again why he is one of the anchors of this Cleveland team, putting up 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and four steals then. And while one would assume him playing his former team in Brooklyn did play into it, Allen did follow up that first outing against the Nets again in another Cavs W on Friday, as he had 19 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes.
Regarding the win, though, Kevin Durant being out (Achilles) on Friday was obviously significant, but Allen and others got it done, anyhow.
Albeit for the Cavs, the possibilities with Nance and Allen as a frontcourt pairing looking onward clearly stand out, which we’ll get into here.
The first relates to the defensive end.
Impact defense for the Cavs with a Nance-Allen pairing
Cleveland sits at second overall in the league in defensive rating. A frontcourt of Nance and Allen is only going to help improve that rating, seemingly for considerable stretches, also factoring in Andre Drummond seemingly being a key subject of trade rumors.
Jarrett Allen’s 11 rebounds, four blocks and a steal in that first outing paired with Nance’s eight rebounds and four steals showed that this defensive frontcourt was bound to give Brooklyn some trouble.
While this was only the two big mens’ first game together, the potential for something special can already be seen, with how Allen is such a gifted shot blocker and Nance’s IQ/feel. Larry leads the league in steals per game with 2.4 and in total deflections with 69, per NBA.com’s player hustle data, and Allen is one of the league’s best young rim protectors under the age of 25, at 22 currently.
Next up, we’ll factor in the offensive end.
Examining the offensive possibilities for the Cavs
A frontcourt that plays with the tenacity and grit of Nance and Allen can create many opportunities for their teammates on both sides of the ball.
Good defense leads to good offense, and if Nance and Allen can continue to synchronize and play their style of defense, it will lead to more chances for opponent turnovers. And that will open up room for more opportunities for Nance on-ball, or Allen as a cutter, or their teammates on the floor, to expose the other team’s weaknesses and generate easy looks offensively.
Cleveland’s young backcourt in Darius Garland (who was back on Friday from a right shoulder sprain, though he didn’t start), and Collin Sexton would have the potential to excel next to this frontcourt for stretches.
With Sexton playing at his current caliber, I believe the Young Bull will flourish with this frontcourt providing multiple opportunities for him to score in transition/secondary transition, too.
Moreover, I anticipate Garland will work well with these two big men in stretches, also, along with players such as Isaac Okoro, Cedi Osman and/or Taurean Prince.