Cleveland Cavaliers: Larry Nance Jr. will again be a defensive disruptor

Cleveland Cavaliers big Larry Nance Jr. steals a pass. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers big Larry Nance Jr. steals a pass. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

It’s safe to say that last season had to have been disappointing for Cleveland Cavaliers big Larry Nance Jr. 

Nance was limited to a career-low 35 games active, and injuries in a number of occasions had to have been so frustrating for him.

Most notably, Nance missed from February into the prior All-Star break because of a fractured fourth left metacarpal, and had a seven-game absence in relation to an extremely rough bout of illness in late March into April. That illness caused him to lose nearly 20 pounds, and it could him some time to regain that weight/gain his stamina back gradually, as would find understandable.

Lastly though, after he was back for a bit, Nance would again sustain an injury, and on April 25 at the Washington Wizards, in what was a game three other Cavs would suffer injuries, Nance fractured his right thumb. He would not be in game action from there in the last three weeks of the now-past season for Cleveland.

So, as we noted, it was not a particularly banner year for Nance, regardless of the condensed schedule.

On the plus side, Nance did do a solid job when he was on the healthier end of things, particularly pre-All-Star break when he was filling in as Cleveland’s starting 4 for Kevin Love, who was then sidelined mostly due to a right calf injury.

On the season overall, Nance had 9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, and while his absences didn’t realistically lead to him as a leader in the category, he was tied for third in the NBA last season in steals per game at 1.7. Nance’s timing in getting into passing lanes, on that subject, led to him being tied for fourth in the league in the regular season in deflections per contest, too, with 3.4 per outing, per’s hustle data.

With that in mind, to me, although his shooting I believe should be back on track next season after he can hopefully be fully healthy/ready to go following the offseason, Nance should again be a defensive disruptor for Cleveland.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Nance will again be a defensive disruptor.

Nance, as Cavs fans are well aware of, is one of the club’s best defenders.

He’s more than capable of doing a solid job on-ball against opposing 4s, and in a number of instances, with his ability to play to his help, he can hold his own against opposing 3s to close off driving lanes/deter pull-ups. Nance could again, at times as a spot starter but mostly as a rotational 4 and at times 5, still do a decent job in some lineups as a jumbo 3 even, and I’d think that could at times play out as well in his PT here and there.

In any case, with Jr., the key with him on defense is the impact he makes as an off-ball/team defender in his playing time; he’s a true defensive disruptor.

Nance’s feel for getting deflections was something that Cleveland missed last season when he wasn’t in there, but really made a difference when he was fully himself, if you will, before he was sidelined for an extended period pre-All-Star, in particular.

That was the same, in a general sense, in the other times he was out for notable stretches too, to drive it home.

Next season though, provided he’s back to full strength after hopefully a productive offseason, we should again see Nance be a defensive disruptor, especially off-ball in that realm, for the Cavaliers.

His feel for getting takeaways is invaluable for the Wine and Gold in his time on the floor, and that helps lead to easier looks in the open floor for himself, Collin Sexton and others.

In addition, it’s clear that the Cavs missed that kind of thing/energy provided from Jr., at least to some extent, in the unfortunate stretches/batches of games that he was not available last season.

And in that regard, with Nance’s passing abilities, to go with his improved handle, after steals, he’s a guy that can help lead the break going the other way, which again, we should hopefully see more of early on next season when he’s in there.

So again, provided he’s fully back to himself, so to speak, Nance should end up re-establishing himself as a defensive disruptor/menace for Cleveland throughout games, which is something that’s definitely a boost for the overall squad.

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Guys feed off that, and the youngsters, even more so it seems. Plus, it also plays into the 28-year-old Nance as a budding on-floor leadership presence as well.