How the Cavs Transformed Into a Top Tier Three-Point Shooting Team

How the Cavs Transformed Into a Top Tier Three-Point Shooting Team

The Cleveland Cavaliers came into the 2022-23 campaign with the intention of joining the League-wide three-point shooting revolution.

Through the first six games of the young season, Cleveland ranks first in three-point accuracy and fourth in made triples per game. Nearly 40 percent of Cleveland’s total points have come from beyond the arc, ranking them around other analytically driven teams like Boston, Utah, and Indiana. The Cavs are also the fifth-most accurate team from the corner and second-best at hitting threes from above-the-break

While Cleveland continues to thrive from beyond the arc, they’ve nearly erased mid-range jumpers from their shot profile. As of Tuesday, Cleveland is shooting mid-range shoots five percent of the time, tied for 25th in the NBA.

“It’s all about our spacing,” Dean Wade told cleveland.com. “Our spacing is unbelievable. There are so many open shots, and it’s obviously a lot easier to hit shots when you’re open. We just let the ballhandler make plays and find open windows. Our confidence is super high. Everyone put in a lot of work this summer. The coaches believe in us. That raises our confidence too.”

The surge in three-point shooting came after the Cavs added the dynamic scoring Donovan Mitchell over the summer. The three-time All-Star has averaged 7.7 long-range attempts over his career. Last season, he shot a career-high 9.8 three-point shots (654) per game while making them (232) 35.5 percent of the time. Spida is shooting 9.2 threes per game this season on a career-best 45.5 percent clip.

Last season, Kevin Love led Cleveland in both categories, taking 477 and drilling 187.

Mitchell’s sharpshooting has unlocked another level that has transformed Cleveland’s offense into a dynamic, spaced-out, drive-and-kick-heavy offense.

“Watch the way the game is being played and how teams are defending and what you can do to attack it. If you’ve got the right people who can get in the paint, then you can find those shots,” Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “I knew we’d be able to get open ones. Then it’s just a trust in the guys who have put in the time to make them. At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.”

Cleveland is thriving despite the absence of Darius Garland, who’s missed the last six games due to an eye injury. Because of Mitchell’s flamethrowing, Caris LeVert’s drive-and-kick game, and Garland’s shifty, probing dribble-drive attacks, multiple Cavs have had career-best starts to the season. Their backcourt has also created a lot of “wide-open” shots for Cleveland to cash in.

Dean Wade is shooting an insane 62.5 percent from beyond the arc, hitting 80 percent of the “wide-open” looks he gets. Love is lighting up the rim at a 47.2 percent rate from deep; he’s already got four games where he’s hit multiple triples in one night, including eight in Sunday’s win against New York. Out of the 36 threes Love has attempted, only four have come with a defender within four feet.

Cedi Osman is shooting 36.7 percent from deep, with 29 of his 30 being open or “wide-open,” and LeVert is hitting triples at 48.5 percent. He’s had just two of his 31 attempts get contested. Mitchell is Cleveland’s most heavily guarded shooter, but only 20 of his 55 attempts were contested.

“It’s just what the defense gives us and the type of 3s that we get,” he explained. “Can you create the open look and make the right pass? The way our guys have been shooting the 3, it’s hard to tell them not to take open shots, no matter the number of them. This might be the first time I’ve ever coached a team that shot 50, but I think, for the most part, they were really good ones, and you’ll take them.”

It doesn’t matter if the Cavs get harder closely from outside; they are knocking down 41 percent of their heavily contested three-pointers, the third-best in the NBA.

From the beginning of training camp until now, Cleveland has been confident they could be more than capable of adopting a new identity as a three-point shooting team. Evan Mobley said he “didn’t know how good it could have been.” Wade remembered how during Cleveland’s third practice, the Cavs “didn’t miss a shot in like four days.” He went on to remark that “the amount of shooters we have on this team is crazy. So many different teams.”

“We’re creating open shots, and we’ve got the right guys taking those shots,” Bickerstaff said. “I hope we took lessons from last year. You go back and look at the numbers; we created open shots at a high level. We didn’t make them.”

Cleveland will continue their long-distance revolution when they host Boston on Tuesday.

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