While we are always critical of Cavaliers’ coach Mike Brown’s offense strategy, he does work under the handicap of not having an excellent shooter on his roster.
The Cavaliers rank last in the NBA in field goal percentage, making just 42.3% of their shots from the floor. And from beyond the three-point line, they are slightly better, ranking 21st among the 30 teams at 35.0%.
To illustrate the importance of shooting, here are the top five teams in the league in making shots: Miami, San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Dallas. All five of those teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
Now, this percentage can be raised by fast break opportunities which lead to high percentage layups and dunks.
So, a more accurate gauge of pure shooting would be the three-point field goal percentage, and again, out of the top five in this category (Spurs, Pelicans, Wizards, Trailblazers, and Warriors), four of them would also reach the post-season.
Why is having shooters important? Well, the obvious answer is the score is kept by putting the ball through the basket.
Still, the real reason you need them is to spread the floor, especially when you have put together a number of guards who excel at driving to the basket like Cleveland has with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
And when the shot clock is running down, you can get the ball to a shooter who has a decent chance of making a long shot.
The closest thing Mike Brown has to a threat from outside is swingman C.J. Miles, who hits 39% from outside the arc. Acting GM David Griffin did take a good stride in this direction in obtaining Spencer Hawes, who is making 40.5% from distance this year.
There is no one else on the roster that opponents need to respect when they are standing beyond the arc.
To be fair, former GM Chris Grant did covet Bradley Beal in last year’s draft, but Washington snapped him up before the Cavs turn with the fourth pick which turned out to be Waiters.
Beal is currently 13th in the NBA in 3 point field goal percentage, making 41.9% of his shots.
Brown’s mentor, Gregg Popovich has embraced the three pointer, with two players among the top 20 in accuracy, and to be fair, when Brown was here before, he had snipers like Damon Jones, Donyell Marshall, and Boobie Gibson on the roster, all guys who could knock down the open three.
Irving is the Cavs’ most frequent shooter from outside and makes 36% of his attempts, but he is one of the guys who make their living driving to the hoop, and opponents want him to take that shot because he is so lethal going to the basket.
Waiters is the same type of player, but when you watch a game, don’t you wish we would go to the hoop more instead of shooting long jumpers? Opponents do too.
The Cavs need a player like Kyle Korver or Jamal Crawford or Marco Bellinelli, a pure shooter that defenses respect and are forced to account for when they are on the floor. Players like that also provide useful targets for Irving and Waiters when they penetrate.
Grant may have started to address the situation by drafting Sergey Karasev last year, but right now Brown considers him too green and too much of a defensive liability to get off the bench.
That’s not helping the current team, and it put too much of a burden on guards to get to the basket to create any kind of scoring.
Just another reason this Cavalier team has struggled to meet expectations.