BROOKLYN, New York — The Cleveland Cavaliers are not satisfied. They’re the NBA’s defending champions, they sit in first place out East at 27-8 following Friday’s 116-108 win over the Brooklyn Nets, and they’re not sitting back wondering if their roster is good enough as-is to compete for another title.
Hence the trade for Atlanta Hawks swingman Kyle Korver, which the Cavs hope to complete by Saturday, according to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin and Marc Stein.
But anybody surprised by Cleveland’s aggressive pursuit to further enhance a squad that already qualifies as “championship-caliber” shouldn’t be. This is the same team that sent away longtime Cavaliers staple Anderson Varejao to acquire lights-out-shooting big man Channing Frye last season—someone who has a pretty good idea how Korver might be feeling right now.
“It made me think, ‘Holy s–t, I’m on a contender now,’” Frye said Friday, reflecting on his own transitional experience a year ago. “Then, at the beginning, it’s a little overwhelming, thinking I’ve got pressure on me to do A, B, C and D. But after coming here and them explaining to me—basically, after a week, they were like, ‘Channing, this is what we want you to do, and that role will expand the more defenses play you differently.’ So I just went from that.”
Frye’s game has been rejuvenated since he arrived in Cleveland. His player efficiency rating rose from 11.8 before the trade to 14.9 after, and it now sits at 16.3 this season—his best mark since his rookie year. He fits the offense by providing spacing as a big man who can shoot threes, much like Kevin Love does.
Korver is one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history, and his presence will help accomplish the goal of stretching out opposing defenses to their breaking point.
“He can get a double-team without the ball,” Frye said. “Anytime he comes off a screen, if you’re not up, he’s one of the guys that when he catches it, it’s up, even if you’re right behind him. Hopefully he gets used to getting a lot of looks and shooting that thing. Hopefully he doesn’t get jelly [jealous] of how wet my jumper is.”
The 33-year-old Frye laughed at his own use of language, but he has a point. He leads the NBA in three-point shooting percentage this season, in no small part thanks to open looks like this generated by kick-out passes: