Even before being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, Larry Nance Jr. was already viewed by many as an up and coming young talent in the NBA. Despite not scoring much, the Cavs center possesses the unique ability to affect the game without having the ball in his hands.
Gifted with insane athleticism and strong defensive instincts, he could block shots, rebound the basketball, and throw down rim-rattling dunks with the best of them. Unfortunately, his first (half) season with the Wine and Gold was not what people expected. While he did have his moments, the second generation Cavalier failed to showcase the upside that made him a fan favorite during his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But now that LeBron James is in Hollywood and the Tristan Thompson experiment officially deemed a failure, the Cavs would be wise to invest their resources in Nance. Not only does he fill their need as a mobile big man, but he also has enough potential to be a building block for a very long time.
Allow me to expound on this further.
Even if he only stands 6-foot-9, the younger Nance has the physical gifts to play center in this small ball era and bruise it up underneath the basketball. Actually, starting him next to Kevin Love would give Cleveland a formidable frontcourt that each has a different type of skill set. Love can take the lead on the offensive end, while Nance could patrol the shaded area on defense.
Having these two play off each other increases the team’s overall flexibility and provides them with interchangeable parts, who can crash the glass, space the floor, and protect the rim.
Besides that, Nance is an ultra-efficient individual who has multi-category abilities. Throughout his three-year career, he has averages of 12.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, an elite 2.0 swipes, and almost a block per game on 55 percent field goal shooting per 36 minutes. If he can play close to 30 minutes a game next season, it is not farfetched to find his statistics close to that line. His hustle, hops, and still-developing outside shot is an instant upgrade over last season’s starting center, Tristan Thompson, and a more proficient one at that.
Finally, the former University of Wyoming standout still has two more years left on his rookie contract; however, the Cavs would be wise to lock the hometown guy up as early as now. Offering him an extension of four years in the $40 to $50-million dollar range would be a low-risk scenario with incredibly high rewards. With Cleveland in rebuild mode, getting their hands on a lot of young talent would set them up for greater success.
You won’t find many other players with the heart and determination of Larry Nance Jr., not to mention his leaping ability, who you can easily pair with Collin Sexton, Love, Cedi Osman, Anti Zizic, and Jordan Clarkson without disrupting the system.
Rewarding him with a grand payday and giving him all the opportunities to grow is the best move the Cavs can make for the future, not just for Nance, but also with their other players. Of course, it all starts with their Swiss-army-knife-type of player who can do just about anything on the basketball court.