Cleveland Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. was recently injured and the Cavs will surely miss his defense. Nance fractured a finger on his left hand in the Cavs’ Friday night loss against the Milwaukee Bucks. Surgery was then performed on Nance’s fractured finger, and he is now expected to miss six weeks. Nance has been a defensive force all season and the Cavs will certainly miss his playmaking ability in the coming weeks.
The Cleveland Cavaliers forward has been simply dominant on the defensive end this season. Nance averages 2.1 steals per game, which ranks second in the NBA. Also, the former Wyoming forward gives a big boost to the Cavs’ defense when he is on the court. While Nance is on the court, the Cavs give up 108.1 points per 100 possessions. Without Nance, Cleveland allows 110.6 points per 100 possessions.
The 6-foot-7 forward also had a wrist injury that kept him off the court before he fractured his finger. Before Nance began to miss games, he led the NBA in many defensive stats. For example, in mid-January Nance was third in the NBA in 101.2 points allowed per 100 possessions. Also, the Akron native was second in the NBA in defensive win shares. Defensive win shares is essentially winning 1-on-1 matchups on defense. Nance also led the league in steals per game, pass deflections per game and loose balls recovered.
Larry Nance Jr. is playing great defense! He ranks:
1st in steal percentage (3.3)
1st in steals (2.4)
1st in deflections (4.8)
1st in loose balls recovered (21)
2nd in Defensive WS (.9)
6th in Defensive Box +/- (2.3)@Larrydn22 joined me on my podcast: https://t.co/td3o0uBUuR
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) January 16, 2021
The Cavaliers have little luck in regards to their team’s health this season. Replacing Nance will be a tough task, and ultimately may be impossible. The Cavs’ frontcourt depth has already been tested due to Kevin Love‘s injuries. Love has only played one full game this season due to a calf injury. Now without Nance and Love, the Cavs are missing their top two power forwards on the roster.
JB Bickerstaff, the Cavs head coach, has done endless experimenting with rotations and starting lineups this season. When Nance has been inactive, Bickerstaff has relied on the new acquisition Taurean Prince or rookie Lamar Stevens. Prince saw a few starts at power forward in the past two weeks. The former Brooklyn Net at power forward simply has not worked well since he is playing out of position. Prince is known for being a wing-shooter, and he cannot do that effectively while playing power forward. Stevens has seen his minutes go up, but he is under-sized for the power forward position at 6-foot-6 and he is inexperienced.
Recently, Bickerstaff tested a two big starting lineup with Jarrett Allen and Andre Drummond versus the Phoenix Suns. So far, this lineup seems like the best bet. There were a few beautiful sequences which saw Drummond dropping the ball off to a wide-open Allen. However, two centers starting will slow the Cavs’ pace down, but there are only so many options right now due to injuries.
Cleveland’s Defense May Decline
The Cavs do not have another player on the roster that has the defensive versatility of Nance. No matter what they do, Cleveland’s defense will decline some. This does not mean the Cavs have to lose nearly every game without Nance, or have sub-par defense. As Bickerstaff has been doing, the Cavs just need to continue to experiment with rotations in order to find the best way to win without Nance.
All stats courtesy of ESPN, Forbes and Sports Keeda.
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