The Cleveland Cavaliers deciding to roster former Northwestern and UNC standout Pete Nance during the 2023 Las Vegas Summer League was unsurprising given his family ties.
However, what made Nance stick out during the Summer League wasn’t his bloodlines, but his play after he was passed over 58 times in the 2023 NBA Draft. Averaging 7.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 0.7 steals in 20.4 minutes per game, all while playing a bench role, Nance routinely impacted the game on both ends of the floor. He was the most impressive player in Cavs’ second unit.
In fact, due to his performance and because he plays a position of need, there’s a real possibility that he could make the Cavs’ 15-man roster.
What Pete Nance brings to the Cavs
At 6-foot-11 and 230 pounds, Pete Nance was able to convert 42.9 percent of the 3-point attempts he took during Summer League.
Considering that he only took 14 total 3-point attempts (while suiting up for all six of the Cleveland Cavaliers Summer League contests), a measure of doubt is understandable. However, in five collegiate seasons, Nance went 138-398 (34.7 percent) from 3-point range, with multiple seasons shooting above 36 percent from deep. Though clearly a streaky outside shooter, Nance’s shooting form is fluid and natural, painting the picture of a true outside threat.
For a team with a starting center that’s more of a traditional rim-runner (and low-post scorer) in veteran Jarrett Allen, having a center capable of bringing opposing centers out the paint isn’t a bad idea. Not only because the Cavs have multiple players that excel at getting to the rim or scoring around it — players like Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Caris LeVert — but because a championship puzzle literally requires different types of pieces.
As of today, Allen’s main backup is Damian Jones, a slight big man who also plays a rim-running role.
Although Pete Nance doesn’t have the level of athleticism — either in foot speed or vertical explosiveness — of his father Larry Nance or his brother Larry Nance Jr., he’s a principled interior defender that consistently impacts shot attempts around the rim. His block average (0.8 per game) isn’t outstanding but it’s respectable, while his film highlights his timing, ability to stay vertical and his defensive tenacity.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will certainly have more formidable shot-blockers on their roster. However, big men that can stretch the floor on one end and protect the rim on the other always have the potential to be integral pieces for a team, whether it’s as depth or as a rotation player.
To that point, while seven-year pro Damian Jones has been in the rotation for multiple teams at various points in his career, he has yet to cement himself as a high-level rotation player to this point in his career. Consequently, Nance has an opportunity to leapfrog Jones in the pecking order, though it would be an uphill battle.
This could be impacted by stretch-big Evan Mobley playing more minutes at center. However, as the fan favorite has been a more consistent scoring threat inside the paint than outside of it, Nance could still have an important role for the Cavs.
There’s something to be said about family ties and how they can strengthen the ties between different generations of an organization and fan base.
In this case, Pete Nance’s ties to former Cleveland Cavaliers great Larry Nance and former Cavs big man Larry Nance Jr. — his father and older brother — is more than enough to fortify both.
What makes the Cavs a worthwhile organization to be a part of, aside from the storied history surrounding NBA legend LeBron James or a surprisingly strong draft history and subsequent anecdotes of homegrown talent, is the familial feel that the franchise gives off. Unlike a franchise like the Brooklyn Nets or Charlotte Hornets, their defining characteristic isn’t their business-like mindset when it comes to their handling and acquisition of players but their ability to make those players believe they’re part of something bigger. A feeling that permeates the front office and trickles down to fans.
With that said, there’s also the simple fact that players from basketball families not only usually have a genuine passion for the sport but have been around the game so long and so often that they have an extraordinary basketball IQ. They also have access to a number of resources — namely a network of individuals — that others do not during their basketball careers.
Both of which should serve both Nance and the Cavs well.