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Cavs player future analysis: Kyle Korver

Cavs player future analysis: Kyle Korver

Three-point shooting has been the Cleveland Cavaliers’ foremost offensive strategy for this past four seasons, and that’s why the team acquired sharpshooter Kyle Korver midway through the 2016-2017 season. Korver has been a welcome addition, but how much longer will he remain in Cleveland?

Drafted in the late second round by the New Jersey Nets in 2003, Korver has become one of the NBA’s all-time greatest shooters. In limited playing time during his rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Korver shot 39% from beyond the arc, a sign of things to come.

Despite his three-point prowess, Korver bounced around from Philadelphia to Utah to Chicago to Atlanta during his first 13 years in the league. In 2014-2015, he made his first All-Star game after averaging 12.1 points per game and shooting an incredible 49% from distance. The next season, his average from deep fell by 10 points to a still very good 39%.

In January 2017, Korver was dealt to the Cavaliers in exchange for Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams, and Cleveland’s 2019 first-round pick. That selection is top-10 protected, so if LeBron James remains a Cavalier, the Hawks should expect the pick to convey this season.

Kyle Korver, Cavaliers

ClutchPoints

Korver made an instant impact for his new squad, averaging 10.7 points on 49% shooting on triples in 35 games. In his first full season with Cleveland, Korver averaged 9.2 points per game while shooting 43% from deep. Playing with LeBron James and Kevin Love allowed Korver to get more open looks than he ever had before in his career, and he benefited from that. His scoring ability off the bench was crucial to increasing the Cavs’ depth, and often times Korver was part of the Cavaliers’ closing lineups, simply because of how good of a shooter he was.

However, during the playoffs, Korver struggled, especially in the NBA Finals. In the 2016-2017 postseason, Korver shot 39% from deep while scoring 5.8 points in 18 minutes per game. Those are solid numbers for a bench player, but Cleveland needed more from their best shooter. The Golden State Warriors were able to defend Korver better than any other team in the league, which is why he went just 5-16 from beyond the arc in the Finals.

Still, Golden State’s defense wasn’t to blame for all of Korver’s struggles.

One play doesn’t define a player’s contribution to a team, but this is the biggest moment that Korver has had with the Cavs, and he came up short (both literally and figuratively). Instead of Cleveland leading by five points with 50 seconds remaining, Kevin Durant nailed a dagger triple and the Cavs found themselves in a 3-0 hole, all because one of the best shooters missed a shot.

Kyle Korver

CP

Korver can’t really be blamed for the Cavaliers’ loss in Game 3, because no matter how good of a shooter he is, he can’t make every shot. However, he has not played well in two consecutive Finals.

Korver’s 2017-2018 performance was even worse than the previous year’s as he went 1-11 from deep in the series, with his only make coming in Game 1. Part of this is due to the Cavs’ sudden abandonment of pin-down screens, which were able to spring Korver free almost without fail during the regular season. Regardless, a less than 10% shooting percentage is unacceptable for a player of Korver’s caliber. He is also a defensive liability, and Golden State’s Klay Thompson benefited when Korver guarded him. It’s not that Korver has a low defensive IQ or doesn’t give effort, he just isn’t physically able to defend at a high level.

Despite his issues, Korver is still a deadly shooter off the bench and is a very valuable role player. His contract will pay him just $7.6 millon this season, and he is guaranteed only $3.4 million in 2019-2020. That is a very team-friendly deal, and although Korver is 37 and nearing the end of his career, he will still carry significant trade value if Cleveland were to explore the market.

If LeBron James departs for another team, trading Korver is almost a necessity. He is a veteran who should be competing for a championship. Without James, the Cavs won’t be doing that. His shooting combined with his contract will draw plenty of interest from contenders, including James’ new team. Korver should fetch at minimum a first-round pick.

If James stays in Cleveland, Korver will stay as well. Deadly three-point shooters have never been more valuable and are not exactly in great supply. The Cavaliers will need to find a way to get Korver more involved in the playoffs, and hopefully he will respond with improved performance.

kyle korver

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Like many players on Cleveland’s roster, Kyle Korver’s future with the Cavaliers depends on LeBron James’ free agency decision. But no matter what happens, Cavs fans should consider themselves fortunate to have been able to witness an all-time great for the past one-and-a-half seasons.

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