There are a few reasons why the Cleveland Cavaliers — the reigning Eastern Conference champions three years in a row — are merely a .500 team midway through November. One of those reasons was on full display in a single possession late in their 23-point comeback victory over the New York Knicks on Monday.
LeBron James grabbed an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter and kicked the ball out to Kyle Korver, who missed an open three. James grabbed two more offensive rebounds in the same possession, and was able to find both Korver and Jeff Green wide open at the three-point line.
Both missed their shots, before the Knicks eventually grabbed the rebound. You can see LeBron droop his shoulders in disappointment.
The Cavaliers have to be more consistent from downtown
LeBron is at his best when he’s surrounded by shooters, and in past years, Cleveland did a good job of spacing the floor around him.
Last season, Cleveland shot the three ball at a 38.4 percent clip; only the Spurs shot a better percentage. This season, that percentage dropped to 34.7, marking the Cavaliers as the 19th most efficient three-point shooting team in the league.
Cleveland is also shooting fewer threes this season than last. The Cavaliers are attempting an average of 29.5 triples per game this year, down from 33.9 threes a game last season.
How did this happen?
When the Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving to the Celtics, they received Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a pair of draft picks in return.
But Thomas is rehabbing from a serious hip injury and has yet to make his Cavaliers debut. After shooting 39.8 percent from downtown last season, Crowder is shooting just 29.5 percent from three as he adjusts to life playing alongside LeBron. Both Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose are sub-.250 shooters from downtown this season, and the only consistent shooters the Cavaliers have had this season are Korver (46 percent), Kevin Love (38 percent) and Channing Frye (35.7 percent).
The result has been a Cavaliers team without a true second option in the backcourt until Thomas returns from injury (Rose is out indefinitely with an ankle injury) and lacking the firepower from behind the arc they’ve had in previous seasons.
Will Cleveland’s perimeter woes persist?
Probably not. Jae Crowder isn’t a 29 percent three-point shooter and his efficiency will improve as the season rages on. The Cavs will me exponentially better once Thomas — who averaged 29 points per game for the Celtics last season — returns to the lineup.
And Cleveland is a team that plays better once it hits its stride mid-season. The Cavaliers are struggling from downtown now, but looking at its roster, that probably won’t last.
Cleveland will be back to raining threes efficiently before you know it. Just give them some time.