Cleveland has been surprisingly good this season.
A team composed of young guns such as Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Damyean Dotson and Cedi Osman along with proven veterans in Andre Drummond, Kevin Love and JaVale McGee – plus addition of Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen.
The Cavaliers are the seventh-seed in the East with 7-7 record tied with Atlanta. They’re coming off a big win over Brooklyn, who had their Big Trio for the first time this season.
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A lot of factors could be credit to Cleveland’s success in this early stage of the season. It could be because of the stellar season that Sexton and Garland are having. Sexton is averaging 27.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals while Garland is putting up 17.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game before his injury.
It can also be credited to Drummond, who is being a true professional and going all out to be a leader in a rebuilding Cavaliers squad by averaging 18.8 points and 15.1 rebounds
However, a low-key factor could be the most important factor for the development of Cleveland which puts them as one of the better defensive team in the league.
Larry Nance Jr went from being a mediocre role player to an important defensive piece on the Cavaliers.
The 28-year-old high-flyer is having a stellar start for this season, averaging a career-high 10.8 points with 6.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
His numbers may not be eye-popping but his impact is felt.
Nance is the league leader in steals per game, averaging a career-high 2.5. He has a better steal average than former Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard (2.1).
Aside from that he is also the league leader in deflections per game with 4.9 and second in loose balls recovered per game with 1.6.
Nance currently has a defensive rating of 104.7. That’s a big improvement from his last year’s defensive rating of 113.0. He also has a 50.0% Defended Field Goal Percentage and 63.1% Field Goals Defended at Rim Percent.
His defensive numbers don’t only affect himself but the whole team as well as Cleveland is now the second-best defensive team in the league with a Defensive rating of 105.5. Last season they were the worst with a 114.8 rating.
The Cavs are also the second-best team in Deflections per game with 18.6 (behind Memphis’ 18.8) and in loose balls recovered with 8.0 (behind Milwaukee’s 8.3).
Nance was just an afterthought last season, averaging 10.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals, but now he’s one of the front runners to win the Defensive Players of the Year in the early part of the season. It will be interesting to see if he can keep this up.
What do you think about Larry Nance Jr’s defensive development? Do you think he can win the DPOY? Sound off in the comment section!