It’s official. The Cavs have received former all-star sharpshooter Kyle Korver from the Atlanta Hawks. Below are the trade details.
Atlanta Receives: $1.2 million, Mo Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and a top-ten protected 2019 first round pick.
Cleveland Receives: Kyle Korver
It is important to call Korver what he is: a veteran three-point shooter who is no longer what he once was. The player who it seems use to run marathons during a game, flew around screens like a bird around trees, and was a historically great shooter has aged. Nonetheless, Korver will be a huge addition to this Cleveland Cavaliers team.
It is easy to look at basic counting stats and say Kyle Korver is a 40% three-point shooter and that will indeed help the Cavs. This is true. But Korver is even more impressive. Let’s examine the coverage of Korver’s three-point attempts this season.
The plurality of Korver’s shots are open or wide-open, and moreover, he is shooting in the mid-forty-percentile on those attempts. Yet, when you compare it with the man Korver is replacing – Mike Dunleavy – those numbers are even more startling.
Put simply, in Atlanta, Korver is getting less open and wide-open three-point attempts than Dunleavy, and furthermore, is still shooting a better percentage. In about all ways, Korver is a better shooter than Dunleavy, and that is huge for the Cavs. The two best stats to explain this are that Korver is shooting a 60.4% effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot jumpers and a 79.9% effective field goal percentage on spot-up attempts. This is important because Dunleavy – in only 15.9 minutes per game, something sure to be higher for Korver – shoots 2.2 catch-and-shoot jumpers and 1.2 spot-up jumpers per game.
The first big difference between the two shooters is their ability to make catch-and-shoot jump shots. As noted before, the statistics clearly demonstrate that Korver is a better shooter on these attempts than Dunleavy, the latter of who has a 50% effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot jumpers, over 10% lower than the former.
As can be seen, Korver has an incredibly fast release that allows him to make catch-and-shoot jumpers before the defense can react. Given the driving prowess of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, as well as Cleveland’s ball-swinging offense, this skill is incredibly valuable. On the other hand, Dunleavy does not have the same quick release, and consequently tends to miss many open catch-and-shoot three-pointers. Below is a video with two examples.
The above clips show a fundamental issue Dunleavy has had with the Cavs. First, at times he is thinking too much and misses the open shot, but secondly, his release is not quick enough nor does it have enough lift to be a threat. More than likely the latter is caused by recurring back problems, which has been problematic for the team in Cleveland.
Additionally, a big part of the Cavaliers offense comes from transition offense. The Cavs run transition offense more than every team but the Rockets, Warriors, Bucks, Thunder, and Suns; and moreover, are the fourth best at it in the NBA. Consequently it is important that Cleveland players excel at transition offense. Per Synergy Sports Tech, moreover, Korver shoots seven percent higher on transition shots. Let’s examine why below:
Korver’s quick shooting motion allows for him to be a threat in transition. In the first clip, half-a-second before Toronto can set their defense, Korver unleashes a knock-down three. Moreover, in the second clip, Korver uses a transition screen to quickly release a wide-open three. On the other hand, Dunleavy struggles with these types of plays.
In both videos, the problem is that Dunleavy is slow to set his feet, and thus has a slow release. This allows the defense to catch-up and slightly get in Dunleavy’s line of vision.
The final way that Korver’s shooting fits in more with the Cavs is via his usage of screens. Kyle Korver has become famous by his ability to run around screens and release quick three-point shots. This ability has been clear in the 2016-17 season. Below is Korver scoring off screens on what amounts to one basic play, nevertheless, a very effective one.
Korver combines his fast release with brilliant footwork. As he is using his feet to get open – something DeMar DeRozan excels at – Korver also jumps early into his release. This allows for clear, open looks generated by the player, not a teammate. This play, while deadly with guys like Millsap and Muscala, will be even more threatening with Kevin Love. Love is a forward who can shoot from any spot on the floor. Moreover, Tristan Thompson – the Cavs center – is one of the best screen setters in the league, averaging 3.9 “screen assists” (plays where a screen leads to a made shot) per game. This, though, is an area where Dunleavy has struggled significantly.
On screens, Dunleavy struggles massively to get open shots and to make the ones he does shoot. On the last clip above, Dunleavy literally shoots the same shot Korver makes seemingly every time he takes it, but he badly misses it. This is not because Dunleavy is a bad shooter, rather, Korver is an excellent one. And this will be a huge benefit to the Cavaliers.
Finally, Korver provides one other benefit. He is a great passer, especially in the pick-and-roll as well as into the post. This is important because the Cavs are the seventh best team in the NBA in terms of points per possessions on post-ups (.92 points per possession) and eighth best in terms of shots taken by a roll man in the pick-and-roll (1.13 points per possession). Below is a video of Korver making these types of passes.
Consequently, Korver does not just help the Cavs in regards to three-point shooting, albeit this is of mass importance. Surprisingly enough, the now-former Hawks swingman makes it easier for the Cavs to score inside the paint as well. This occurs because Korver has great vision, and due to his three-point shooting, frees up room for big men inside the paint. On a team with Kevin Love and LeBron James – both players who like to score in the post – this is a deadly proposition.
So how does Korver fit in with the Cavs’ rotations? Furthermore, does he start or come off the bench? To me, the latter question is very simple, Korver should become the Cavs’ sixth-man. First, as I’ve noted in a previous article, DeAndre Liggins has been great as a starter in Cleveland.
But second, the Hawks recently moved their former swingman to a bench role, and his true shooting percentage has risen four percent and his effective field goal percentage has risen 2.5 percent. This has occurred because, when Korver was starting, he was tiring-out by the end of games. Thus it would be shocking if Cleveland put Korver in a role that he has frankly struggled with for a full season. Twenty minutes of a healthy, elite Korver is better than twenty-five minutes of a mediocre one.
With that stated, below is the Cavs’ depth chart currently, and thus before JR Smith recovers from his injury:
Point Guard
Kyrie Irving
Kay Felder
Shooting Guard
DeAndre Liggins
Iman Shumpert
Jordan McRae
Small Forward
LeBron James
Kyle Korver
Power Forward
Kevin Love
Richard Jefferson
James Jones
Tristan Thompson
Channing Frye
Yet, this hardly demonstrates the versatility of various lineups Tyronn Lue can use with Korver. For example, outside of the five-man units currently in play, below are two super-shooting rotations Lue can utilize.
1) Kyrie Irving/Kyle Korver/LeBron James/Kevin Love/Channing Frye
2) Kyrie Irving/Kyle Korver/Richard Jefferson/LeBron James/Kevin Love
Yet, this becomes even more deadly when JR Smith does return. Below are five potential lineups that will give every team in the NBA massive difficulties to defend.
1) Kyrie Irving/JR Smith/Kyle Korver/LeBron James/Kevin Love
2) Kyrie Irving/JR Smith/Kyle Korver/LeBron James/Channing Frye
3) JR Smith/Kyle Korver/LeBron James/Kevin Love/Channing Frye
4) Kyrie Irving/JR Smith/Kyle Korver/Richard Jefferson/LeBron James
5) Kyrie Irving/JR Smith/Kyle Korver/LeBron James/Tristan Thompson
The possibilities are endless. Cleveland General Manager, David Griffin, has once again made a masterful trade. With a healthy J.R. Smith, Korver makes the Cavs just as dangerous offensively as Golden State. Without a healthy J.R., Korver fills a need in Cleveland. Since Smith’s injury the Cavs’ advanced shooting stats have fallen between three to four percent, and their three-point percentage has fallen six percent. Korver’s shooting and passing prowess should restore these numbers to their pre-J.R. injury levels.
The only legitimate criticism of this trade is that Korver is no longer the same defensive player. He has a defensive rating of 106.4, which is in the bottom 25% of the league.
This is odd, though, because last year he was a key part of the NBA’s best defense in the second-half of the season. Part of this may be because a lot of the Hawks’ new talent. Per NBAWowy, when Korver shares the floor with Paul Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha – his two long-time teammates in Atlanta – the team’s defensive rating plummets to a much better 102.6. In Cleveland, this pairing is similar when Korver will play with DeAndre Liggins (or Iman Shumpert) and LeBron James. Consequently, the new Cavalier swingman playing does nothing close to guarantee a poor defensive performance, but the surrounding players are indeed important.
This criticism is flawed for another reason. Kyle Korver is not being brought in to play excellent defense. The Cavs want Korver’s shooting to make them more deadly on offense. Given his unique shooting ability and technique passing into the post, Cleveland should be more than pleased with the talents of their new swingman, and the rest of the NBA will be rightfully fearful as they await the Cavs’ new and improved offense.


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