Larry Nance Jr. has been a defensive stalwart and one of the key pieces for the Cavaliers in J.B. Bickerstaff’s system, and that should be noticed.
The Cavaliers are a team built on defense, turnovers, fast breaks, and efficiency. They’re essentially the Browns if the Browns defense wasn’t a gaping hole. Their frenetic pace and style offensively is only matched by their ability to force turnovers and create offense through their stunning fun-to-watch defense. Larry Nance, on a team full of defensive bangers, may just be the top dog.
The Cavs have a few really impressive players defensively. Andre Drummond, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate some years has really shown up on that end of the court, even if his shot selection is Monta Ellis’ levels of bad. Recent additions Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince have paid instant dividends defensively, not to mention rookies Isaac Okoro and yes, Dyland Windler. All of these men have shown out in their given time. Granted, we need more from Windler, it’s just two games in for him, but you can’t deny this team-defense hits differently.
Even Collin Sexton, someone who has been criticized for his defense, has come alive in this system, snatching passes from his back at times. He’s been showing that his hustle and energy is pretty effective with a team that is built on defense.
Yet, it’s Nance that has arguably been the best defensive player. Not only is he super versatile, guarding everyone from DeAndre Jordan to Kyrie Irving during the two games against the Nets, but he’s also leading the lead steals-per-game (2.4.)
He and Drummond are also dominating the defensive rating this year. Drummond sits 1st with a rating of 97.6 (lower the better) while Nance is sitting at 14th with a rating of 104.2. For those wondering, that’s ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
At this rate, with the Cavs defense the way it is, Nance and Drummond will easily get the most votes for the Defensive Player of the Year. The Cavs are holding opponents to106.6 points per game, which despite the Nets putting up 135 on Wednesday, still has the team at 4th best in the league. They’re also third in the league in steals-per-game and only 9th in the league in personal fouls committed.
That’s the sign of winning basketball and a sign that Nance may one day join his father in the rafters of the Rocket Mortage Fieldhouse.