After a hot start to the season, the Cavs are now 10-14 and falling apart on both sides of the court, part of the reason is due to Larry Nance Jr. being out.
Larry Nance Jr. may just be the best all-around player on the Cavs so far during the 2020-2021 season. It’s either him or Jarrett Allen, with regards to their effect on the team on both sides of the court. Some people will rush to Collin Sexton’s support, but Nance’s impact on defense (+3.4) is statistically greater than Sexton’s impact on the offense (+1.2).
That’s not meant as a dig at Sexton, he’s a promising guard, but he’s very one-dimensional offensively, while Nance is a jack-of-all-trades type of player who was well on his way to being included in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion. Not only that, but his ability to help generate offense beyond just scoring also made him one of the more essential players on both sides of the court.
Losing him for nearly six weeks is going to be a crushing blow to the Cavs, who were already struggling without him in the lineup. While the eventual return of Kevin Love and Matthew Dellavedova may help things on both sides of the court, Love isn’t going to be a big difference-maker with causing turnovers, and Dellavedova isn’t the impact player offensively that Nance is.
So while the team can stymie the negative effects of losing Nance for a few weeks, his loss is going to be nearly impossible to rebound from entirely; that is until he returns to the court.
It’s rather ironic that Nance is such a major impact on the team, as many had doubts he’d ever reach his full potential after being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. The trade to Cleveland, where his father became an icon, ended up being the best thing for him as he’s taken on a Draymond Green-like role for the Cavs and even started to improve his shooting ability, becoming more of a three-point threat in 2020-2021 than he had at any other point his basketball career.
If the Cavs are still hoping to compete for the playoffs, then it will be even harder without Nance in the lineup.