What the Cavs see in Mike Dunleavy and Chris Andersen
Winning a championship from down three to one against a 73 win team seemed nearly impossible last year. Defending that championship against the newly retooled Golden State Warriors may prove to be even harder, though. The Cavalier’s front office knows this, and have been busy all summer trying to fill gaps and mend the holes left by players like Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova who signed elsewhere in the offseason. With the current “win now” philosophy of the Cavaliers, the fact that their cap space was dwindling, and the emergence of already acquired younger players like Kay Felder and Jordan McRae, it was only natural that the Cavaliers began exploring a multitude of veteran players. Over this summer, two players were able to reach a deal with the reigning NBA Champions – center Chris Andersen and small forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. What exactly can they bring to the table this year and what can we expect from them as the Cavaliers seek to defend the title?
Chris Andersen, who’s played 14 seasons in the NBA, was signed by the Cavaliers in July. He started this past season with Miami, and was plagued with knee issues that allowed him to only see the court seven times while with them. He was then dealt to injury-ridden Memphis, who sought relief from the gap down low that Marc Gasol’s injury brought. Andersen played 20 games with the Grizzlies, starting 14 of them and averaging 18.3 minutes per game. He even played four playoff games last year, starting two of them.
In the games he did play, he proved he still could be productive when healthy. His FG%, 52.8%, would have been the third best on the Cavs for players who played over five minutes per game. At the rim (0-2 feet), he shot 67.4%, higher than Tristan Thompson last year. His Player Efficiency Rating, 15.3, would have been fifth best on the Cavaliers last year.
One of his main strength lies in his defensive pressure. His Defensive Box Plus-Minus, 1.1, would have been fifth on the Cavaliers of players with over 100 minutes played. He also blocked 2.9% of all opponent shots while on the court last year and had a steal in 1.9% of all defensive possessions. Only Timofey Mozgov had a higher block percentage, 3.5%, and only Iman Shumpert and LeBron James had higher steal percentages, 2.1% and 2.0% respecivtely, out of players with the same minute qualification on the Cavaliers.
Along with being a defensive presence, he was also able to command the glass on offense. His Offensive Rebound Percent, the percentage of shots that his team missed that he grabbed, was 9.9% last year, which would have been second only to Tristan Thompson on the Cavaliers out of players who played over 100 minutes. In addition to these stats, he already has chemistry with LeBron James and James Jones— Anderson was a crucial part of their second NBA Championship in 2013 with Miami, where he set a record for NBA Playoff FG% with 80.4%.
The circumstances bringing Mike Dunleavy Jr. to Cleveland are a bit more complicated.
This veteran, who also has 14 seasons of NBA experience, was acquired in a trade with the Bulls involving Dunleavy’s contract being absorbed into a trade exception and the exchange of the Cavalier’s recently acquired rights to Albert Miralles – both of which the Cavaliers acquired from the Matthew Dellavedova sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.
This veteran small forward also had injury issues last year. Due to back issues resulting in surgery, he missed the first portion of the season and was able to play only 31 games during the 2015-2016 season. Fortunately, since the games he did play were after recovering from the procedure, the Cavaliers won’t be going into the season blind to his abilities after surgery, especially since he was able to play an average of 22.7 minutes per game during the 31 games he played.
Dunleavy is an elite outside threat – his 39.4% three point percentage would stand as the third highest on the Cavaliers last year of players that played over 500 minutes. His three point shot is his most used offensive weapon, accounting for 52.7% of all of his shots. Only four Cavaliers – JR Smith, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, and Iman Shumpert – shot a larger percentage of their shots from beyond the arc. He shoots even better on catch-and-shoot threes, shooting 40.7%. A lot of the spacing he creates comes with his ability to move without the ball. On offense, he moved with an average speed 4.90 miles per hour – highest on the Bulls last year and higher than any Cavalier.
Per 36 minutes, he averaged 11.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists – higher in all three categories than the Cavaliers’ current backup small forward, Richard Jefferson, who averaged 11.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per 36 minutes. On the defensive end, his 6’9” height plays heavily to his advantage. When defending the three point shot – which accounted for over a third of his defensive attempts – his opponents shot a mere 29.9%, which is 4.8% less than their average. This would account for the best differential on the Cavaliers for players who defended at least 25 three pointers.
With these promising additions, the Cavaliers look to lock down meaningful benchminutes to give the starters their needed rest and fill gaps left in the reserves from the players who left. All the numbers point to these two veterans being highly effective for the NBA Champions this year. Most importantly, these two veterans have experience. Chris Andersen has played in 73 playoff games, and Mike Dunleavy Jr. has played in 26. They bring with them even more playoff confidence to an already playoff-savvy team. They have the abilities, basketball IQ, and skills needed to help propel the Cavaliers forward as this team sets their eyes on the road ahead — the road back to the greatest stage in the NBA to defend their title.