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The Cavs Went From Great To Unguardable By Adding Kyle Korver

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Kyle Korver is not the same player that he used to be. That’s the case for most 35-year-old athletes playing in the NBA. The 6’7 swingman has lost a half-step in terms of explosiveness, isn’t shooting the ball at quite the same level that he was in his absolute prime and has never been a threat to create off the dribble for himself or others. Why, then, are the Cleveland Cavaliers investing a first round pick from a near-depleted stockpile of draft assets in order to secure his services? Well, that’s simple.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are now, officially, unguardable.

Make no mistake, the presence of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love is the primary reason that the Cavs are so potent on the offensive end. The defending champs already possess one of the two most explosive offensive trios in the NBA (hello, Golden State) and, with LeBron in the mix, everything is ratcheted up in terms of both execution and intensity. Cleveland is scoring at a rate of more than 110 points per 100 possessions this season. Even in a league that is scoring at an historic pace thus far, that is good for a top-five mark and also includes a few outings in which the Cavs have “punted” by leaving their stars in street clothes for the proceedings.

Still, Cleveland does have some “holes” (albeit small ones when compared to other squads) with their roster and one comes in the form of dead-eye shooting. J.R. Smith has capably served as the gunner on the wing for the Cavs in recent years, but the talented and mercurial swingman is on the shelf for a multi-month absence as a result of a broken thumb. Even before that, the champs were likely one shooter short of an ideal set-up, and that prompted the acquisition of Mike Dunleavy Jr. to fill that presumed role alongside Smith, Iman Shumpert and Richard Jefferson.

Fast-forward a few months and it is Dunleavy reported to be heading out of town to make way for Korver. The veteran forward has faced health issues that Korver simply has not, and in short, Dunleavy isn’t the pure marksman that Korver has been throughout his extended career. The now 35-year-old Korver is currently the best spot-up player in the NBA according to Synergy, producing at 1.55 points per possession when operating in those situations. Beyond that, Korver leads the entire league in effective field goal percentage (84 percent) on spot-up jumpers in the halfcourt this season and he is widely regarded as an elite shooter along the lines of only a few other players in the NBA.

In his utter prime, Korver was short of only Stephen Curry and perhaps Klay Thompson as the best shooter on Earth. In fact, Korver led the NBA in three-point shooting in back to back seasons (2013-2014 and 2014-2015) while shooting 48.3 percent on significant volume and that came without the presence of a dominant facilitator to feed him the ball. Granted, the Hawks were utterly electric on the way to 60 wins during his All-Star campaign in Atlanta, but with LeBron James on board at his new destination, Korver could be unlocked in an obscene way.

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Korver does need to be unlocked, and that is a point that skeptics of the move could make. He is shooting “only” 40.1 percent from beyond the arc since the start of the 2015-2016 season and it is clear that Korver has faced issues in creating space lately. Much of that can be traced to a Hawks offense that is suddenly quite pedestrian with Dwight Howard and Dennis Schröder prominently involved, but Father Time is undefeated and Korver needs to be in a secondary role to fully succeed at this juncture of his basketball life.

In Cleveland, that is exactly the player he can be. No one can combine defense-collapsing penetration and otherworldly passing vision in the way that James can. In addition, the presence of Irving, Love, Channing Frye, and even Smith (upon return) won’t allow opposing defenses to key on Korver in the way that they could against shooting-challenged Atlanta.

Korver is likely to encounter more space with the Cavaliers than he knows what to do with.

There will be questions about lineup usage, especially once Smith is fully healthy, and Tyronn Lue could have a balancing act on his hands. With Korver, though, he comes with an approval rating that appears to be universal from teammates and arrives with little expectation of a featured role. In short, it is the perfect offensive addition for a team that already boasts a tremendous number of weapons.

Imagine a world in which LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and either J.R. Smith or Channing Frye take the court with one of the best shooters in the history of the NBA as the fifth member of their quintet. Now, snap back to reality and recognize that it became a terrifying reality on Thursday evening. That might not be a group that can guard the likes of the Golden State Warriors defensively, but it is safe to assume that Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and company won’t be getting many stops, either.

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