The Cleveland Cavaliers extended their regular season record to an impressive 9-1 following a 121-117 win over the Toronto Raptors the other night, but make no mistake about it, the Cavs don't win that game without Channing Frye.
The 6'11" marksman continued his scorching start to the season as he poured in 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting including five triples, a Cavalier high for the big man.
While the Cavaliers have been winning, curiously the team has yet to catch fire from long distance. Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Richard Jefferson and Mike Dunleavy have all started out the season shooting the ball below their percentages from last year.
However, the three-point shooting malaise has not included Frye, who is currently second in the league in three-point shooting, having converted a remarkable 51 percent of his three-point shots through the first 10 games.
Frye became an integral part in the team's run to their maiden NBA title last June, and his acquisition represents yet another masterstroke by Cavs GM David Griffin.
With Anderson Varejao sitting on the Cavs roster with a hefty contract last season, Griffin acquired Frye at the deadline by moving the popular Wild Thing and a 1st Round Pick to make room for Frye's contract. Frye is now playing crunch-time minutes for the World Champions, while Varejao spends his time at the very end of Steve Kerr's bench in Golden State.
The former Arizona man is widely recognized as one of the league's best big-man shooters, but is even more potent when utilized in lineups featuring the Cavaliers' star forward LeBron James
The threat of the James causes defenses to gravitate towards him, leaving Frye open to do what he does best: drain wide-open shots.
Due to the threat of higher-profile players, a whopping 44 percent of all Frye's shots have been 'wide open' where his closest defender is over six feet away and Frye is shooting 52.8 percent on such shots.
Through 10 games, lineups with James and Frye have outscored opponents by 7.4 points per game, shooting 42.9 percent from long range, per NBA.com.
Speaking to reporters following the win against Toronto, James discussed Frye's importance to the team.
"He's just a difficult matchup. We have a great lineup and his ability to spread the floor, shoot the ball like he's been able to do and also guard bigs and help out on the glass has been definitely a great thing for our team," James said.
The Cavaliers' roster meshes so well together because each player has a defined role and understands his role clearly. Frye's comments following the game illustrated this understanding.
"The minute that (defender) touches the paint, it's over," Frye said. "Welcome to Frye-land. there's too much room. I'm 7-foot and I have a green light and I'm playing with maybe the best passer in the league."
Before last night's game, in the 128 minutes that Frye has been on the court this season, the Cavaliers boast an Offensive Rating of 119.4, a number which would be by far the best offense in the league. When Frye is off the court, their ORtg drops down by almost nine points to 110.7, per Basketball Reference.
With LeBron sitting out last night, Frye struggled going 2-8 from behind the arc. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love had very good games but not having the gravity of LeBron to pull the defense hurt Frye. It also put players in positions they were not used to which threw off timing especially on the deep shots. Frye's poor shooting from 3 point land was joined by Love (4-10) and Irving (1-5) as well.
For a team that boasts as much star power as any in the league, a player like Frye is yet another weapon for defenses to deal with.
Not bad for someone who was acquired in exchange for dead weight at the end of the bench, and a 1st Round pick.
How surprised are you with Frye's play so far this season?null