The Cleveland Cavaliers made a huge statement with their recent acquisition of former Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
Cavs General Manager David Griffin hasn’t gotten the props that LeBron, Kyrie and head coach Tyronn Lue have for delivering the city’s first professional championship since Dionne Warwick was a musical powerhouse back in 1964, but it’s about time to start recognizing the man who has been assembling LeBron’s war chest over the past few years.
Snagging Korver, one of the league’s elite sharpshooters, is yet another midseason move that fits neatly into Griffin’s pattern of gearing up for that ultimate push in the playoffs.
When James took his talents back to Cleveland, Griffin remixed the flawed roster in January by shrewdly swinging deals for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. When Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving went down with injuries that ultimately sabotaged the team’s title aspirations, Mozgov played a huge role in last year’s playoffs, which he parlayed into a sweet free agent deal with the Lakers.
Last year, the move to bring in Channing Frye from Orlando at the trade deadline didn’t send shockwaves throughout the league, but adding the multi-faceted shooter with length who could space the floor paid championship dividends. What began as an afterthought was soon being praised as perhaps the most underappreciated GM move of the year as Frye hit an amazing 56.5% of his three-point shots in the playoffs and showed out against the Hawks in the second round and the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.
After last night’s 99-94 Hawks win over New Orleans, Korver acknowledged that he was heading towards the ideal situation for a player with his skill set who is entering the twilight of his NBA career.
“From a basketball perspective, it’s a great, great fit for me,” Korver told ESPN’s Marc Stein. “And I know that.”
Korver has been rocking with the Hawks since 2012 and his insane 2014-15 campaign, where he made the All-Star team and helped propel the franchise to a 60-win season while banging 49% of his shots from the field overall and from deep, along with cashing in at a 90% clip from the charity stripe, was one of the best perimeter shooting performances that the league has ever seen.
With Kyrie dealing with a nagging hamstring issue and the ever-streaky J.R. Smith being a conundrum on a nightly basis, along with Iman Shumpert, despite his wonderful defensive presence, looking rather ordinary on the offensive end, bringing in Korver was the perfect move.
Cleveland’s brilliance and dominance revolves around Kyrie and LeBron working their magic in space. The best skill set that can add to what they do is consistent, deadly perimeter shooting. And very few fit that bill quite like Korver. His presence alone will open up the paint because he always has to be accounted for, whether plays are being called for him or not.
And don’t be fooled simply by the abbreviated nightly highlights of Korver’s sweet stroke. He’s much more than a catch-and-shoot threat. He excels at running defenders ragged through screens, is adept at using his own dribble to create space while pulling up off the bounce, his floater game is no joke, is always a threat on the pick-and-pop and he sees the floor well in terms of swinging the ball to others when they have an offensive advantage.
Make no mistake about it though, all of those elements keep defenders guessing and off-balance and compliment his true value as a spot-up shooter. The cat has connected on 43% of his three’s for his entire career and he provides LeBron, Kyrie, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavs with a similar weapon to what James enjoyed with Miami in sharpshooter extraordinaire Ray Allen.
For the rest of the NBA, that’s a scary proposition, because the Cavs will now be offensively better and more diverse than last year’s championship squad. His presence means that LeBron, Kyrie and Love don’t have to carry the bulk of the offensive burden, having the luxury of dishing off to one of the all-time great shooters.
Best believe the East is already theirs, and San Antonio and Golden State took serious notice. When the Cavs are at full health, they’re gonna be a hard puzzle to solve for anyone.