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Are the Cavs considering starting Larry Nance Jr. over Tristan Thompson?

Are the Cavs considering starting Larry Nance Jr. over Tristan Thompson?

With the NBA trade deadline come and gone, the Cavs were obviously the biggest winners when they brought in talent to win now, in the future, and still kept the coveted 2018 Brooklyn Nets first-round draft selection. One of the players the Cavs obtained that generated the most buzz amongst fans was former Wyoming Cowboy Larry Nance Jr., son of Wine and Gold legend Larry Nance.

The buzz became a fever pitch once Lance Jr pulled off this dunk during the 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest where he replicated his dad’s iconic dunk from years ago:

With Junior pulling off Senior’s iconic dunk, fans were frothing at the bit to see the franchise icon’s son put on his dad’s iconic #22 (which is retired by the Cavs) and after a bit of negotiation, it appears that Nance Jr. will honor his father by wearing #22 for the Cavs as well.

In just a few week’s time, Junior has become one of the more popular players currently on the roster (aside from LeBron James, of course) and the coaching staff may be starting to buy into the hype as well. Cavs Nation’s own Nikki Goel noticed this after the conclusion of practice this week:

While Nance has only been here for a few weeks compared to Thompson, who has been here since the start of the 2011 NBA season, there may be some credence to Nance Jr. taking his spot in both the starting unit and in crunch-time situations for the things he brings to the table over Thompson.

In their last game before the All-Star break against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Cavs were in a tightly-contested match until the very end and were able to stay in the game thanks to Nance.

When the final buzzer rang Nance finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal, including eight offensive rebounds in just 25 minutes of play. Compare this to Thompson, who finished with a meager two points and four rebounds in 23 minutes of play. The other thing Nance brought to the table in the same against the Thunder was the fact that he was able to negate the damage Steven Adams was doing to the team on the boards, who was outrebounding Thompson from opening tip.

Larry Nance Jr.

The fact that Nance was able to both contain Adams and have a nose for eight offensive boards against an Oklahoma City team that is currently ranked seventh in total team rebounding just helps create the case for Nance to start over Thompson. Before this season, Thompson did exactly what Nance does now for the Cavs by acting like a spark plug by sniffing out offensive rebounds and throughout this season, Thompson’s spark just seems to be totally gone. Nance can easily provide the spark that the Cavs have been missing and help cement his case to join the starting unit.

After Nance’s stellar outing against the Thunder, Coach Lue again turned to Lance down the stretch in a grind out win against the Memphis Grizzlies and Nance responded, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists, four steals, and two blocks in just 27 minutes:

Compared to Thompson, who finished with just two points and five rebounds, Nance yet again was the catalyst big man in another Wine and Gold winner.

Another part of Nance’s game that clearly outshines Thompson is the fact that he actually has a reliable jump shot that shows potential. For his career, Nance has a career three-point percentage of 23.5% while Thompson has never been one to shoot from beyond a few feet from the basket and the fact that Nance has shown an ability to hit three-pointers will only add more versatility to the Cavs on the offensive side of the ball. If Nance is able to add a reliable three-point shot to his game, it only adds even more spacing to allow LeBron James to operate on offense.

Tristan Thompson

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

With Nance being such a threat on the offensive boards, on defense, and still has a blossoming offensive game, it makes Thompson 100% expendable for the Cavs. This would be huge for a team that will be strapped for cash following this season if LeBron James decides to re-up with the team through the twilight of his career (Spoiler: he 100% will.) and that can help the team continue to build all while saving Dan Gilbert’s pocketbooks.

It will not be easy to move Thompson’s contract, as he is expected to make $17,469565 alone next season, but Cavs GM Koby Altman has proved that he is able to move garbage contracts to other teams like he did with Iman Shumpert to the Sacramento Kings. Nance’s contract, on the other hand, is still in his rookie deal and is only going to make $2,272,391 next season. This is quite a difference compared to Thompson’s contract and he fits in 100% with the Cavs newly-formed youth movement.

Larry Nance Jr.

With the remaining third of the Cavs’ season still to go for the team, there will be plenty of time for head coach Ty Lue to get a better feel for his younger players in Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, and of course Larry Nance Jr.

Nance has become a fan favorite because of his father and the spark that he provides to the team has made him a likely candidate to replace Tristan Thompson in the team’s starting lineup. It was already showcased down the stretch in the team’s revenge win against the Thunder and there will be plenty of opportunities for Nance to cement his case as a starter and will be huge when both Kevin Love returns and when the Cavs start their quest to win their second NBA Championship.

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