LeBron James knows full well you should not leave Kyle Korver open under any circumstances. (Getty Images)
The Atlanta Hawks are supremely bummed to see Kyle Korver go to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and that tells us all we really need to know about how well the 35-year-old sharpshooter fits on his new team.
But let’s talk more about it anyway, because imagining Korver in the space created by a roster with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love commanding attention is a fun world to live in right now.
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First, the Hawks and their postgame catharsis after learning Korver had been dealt to the Cavaliers at some point on a night he warmed up with his teammates, only to sit out Atlanta’s 99-94 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday — a victory that moved them into the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed. Here’s fellow Hawks wing Kent Bazemore, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore:
“This business man,” said Bazemore. “It’s cutthroat and it doesn’t really care about personal relationships or the impact people have in your life. Kyle is one of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet, the most amazing teammate you’ll ever meet. Always positive. He’s just a professional the way he approaches the game. Just that aspect alone, I learned a lot from. How to take care of your body. Faith-based man. Loves his family. Checks all the boxes. He’s one of those people that you need around you on a daily basis to keep you on the straight and narrow. When I first proposed to my now fiancee, we had long talks about that and kids, treating them right, how to be a good husband and father. Those are the conversations that you can’t put on the stat sheet. He’s just an amazing person.”
That’s some heavy stuff right there. Korver also expressed real emotion upon reminiscing about his time in Atlanta, where he became an All-Star on a 60-win team and a father to two children. But so what about Korver’s faith, family and friendship; let’s get to the basketball stuff, you say. Calm down. We’re getting to that, too. Bazemore certainly hinted at it, lamenting Korver’s trade to an East rival.
More Bazemore: “It sucks because it’s to a team we want to beat. That stings”
— Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) January 6, 2017
And then Korver said it himself, succinctly and oh so perfectly. The Cavaliers and Korver just fit.
Kyle Korver to press postgame: “It’s hard to leave [Atlanta] behind, [But] obviously it’s a great opportunity for me to go to Cleveland.”
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 6, 2017
Kyle Korver clearly emotional but tells the press in NOLA: “From a basketball perspective, it’s a great, great fit for me. And I know that.”
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 6, 2017
For obvious reasons, Korver is a perfect complement to LeBron, arguably the game’s greatest at commanding double teams and finding open shooters. And boy can Korver shoot. He has shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range in 10 of his 14 seasons, 42.9 percent from distance for his career, and no worse than 39.8 percent from beyond the arc since a career-high 53.6 percent clip in 2009-10 — one of a trio of times he’s led the NBA in 3-point shooting over the past seven seasons.
“I mean, it will do a lot,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said of Korver’s impending arrival, via Cleveland.com. “Especially a guy who can move without the ball the way he moves coming off screens and things like that, there’s no better guy. I mean, him (Korver), Steph (Curry), Klay (Thompson) right now coming off screens and being able to make shots and make plays. So if we are able to make that addition, it would be great for our team.”
Quite simply, Korver is one of the greatest shooters to ever live. He ranks eighth in both career 3-point shooting percentage (42.9) and successful 3’s (1,952). Of the seven players who have converted at a higher career clip — Steve Kerr, Hubert Davis, Stephen Curry, Drazen Petrovic, Jason Kapono, Tim Legler and Steve Novak — none have attempted as many 3’s as Korver (4,554), and the trade to Cleveland should help push him to fifth on the all-time list, as he should be closing in on Jamal Crawford (1,982), Vince Carter (1,984) and Jason Kidd (1,988) real quick over the next couple months.
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Among players with anything more than 10 spot-up attempts this season, Korver leads the league, shooting 58.2 percent on such plays. His 1.55 points per possession on spot-up opportunities are better than anyone this year or last. Second on the list? Cavs forward Channing Frye at 1.53 points per possession. Frye, by the way, arrived in Cleveland last year with a career 3-point percentage of 38.7 percent and is now shooting a league-best 46.5 percent this season. A similar phenomenon occurred with J.R. Smith, who hit career highs of 40 percent and 510 attempts from 3 in 2015-16. Same goes for Love, who’s shooting 39.7 percent on 6.8 attempts per game this season. It’s the LeBron Effect.
Frye saw his open to wide-open looks increase by more than 50 percent from the Orlando Magic to the Cavaliers. Cleveland ranks second only to the Houston Rockets in open or wide-open looks per game (closest defender at least 4 feet away), with 27 such chances per game, and do you know what Korver is shooting on almost 1,000 of those attempts over the past four years? 47.9 percent. As Brandon Walsh once said to his twin sister on “90210,” “This isn’t a party, Bren, it’s a way of life.”
Kevin Love’s advice to Kyle Korver on playing with LeBron: “When you catch the ball, shoot it.”
— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) January 6, 2017
“Just don’t leave Korver open,” is a thing you’d say if you didn’t know Lue has become accustomed to finding creative plays to get guys open looks — looks he calls “butt-naked shots” — looks like these …
… and you forgot LeBron is a wizard who’ll find a way in if you leave your window open even a smidge:
Even if opponents can keep a defender tight on Korver all night, that only creates more space for James, Irving and Love to operate. Lest you forget, they are all All-Stars on the defending champs.
As Mike Dunleavy, who is headed back to Atlanta in the trade for Korver, said of the above Magic pass, “[LeBron] always makes it a little easier.” And anything easier for Korver is a frightening proposition.
In fact, I can paint no scarier picture than a series of “butt-naked shots” for “faith-based” Kyle Korver.
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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach