Can Channing Frye Continue to be Cleveland's X-Factor?


Channing Frye has reinvented his career.

When he arrived in Cleveland last winter, fans thought of him as a veteran three-point threat with shaky defense. What those fans might not know is that Frye took a grand total of 70 three-pointers during his first four seasons in the league, a span in which he also took nearly 2000 attempts inside the arc.

Things change.

The Suns were in the late stages of their fun-and-gun offense when Frye arrived in Phoenix, putting up 392 three point attempts, and make a staggering 44% of them, all while playing center. The trend continued. In his four seasons with the Suns, he averaged at least 4 threes per game and never less than 5.7 per 36 minutes. He was becoming a shooter. 

In 2014-2015, his one full season with Orlando, the pendulum swung to an extreme - Frye took just 2.7 shots inside the arc per 36 minutes. Per game played, that total was 1.9 two-pointers. That's what teams (including the Cavaliers) saw and that's what teams wanted. A big guy who could spread the floor and move well.

When Frye finally arrived in Cleveland, he was given one instruction: Let it fly.

It took a few games to get settled into the rotation, but then the Cavaliers played a 4 games-in-5-nights stretch. Kevin Love sat out the 2nd game, giving Frye a chance to start. Here's a snippet of what he did in his 24 minutes.

Frye went 8-10 from the field, 5-7 from deep, grabbed seven rebounds, scored 21 points, and made one enormous impression on Cavaliers fans. This was all it took for him to weasel into the hearts of Cleveland.

He hit open shots, he hustled, and he didn't do anything stupid. He had 0 turnovers in the game. Two nights later (in the same building) he hit 5-7 threes against the Clippers. Memories of Anderson Varejao faded in a heartbeat.

This coming season, he will absolutely continue to take - and make - open threes. How do I know this? Because last season 100% of his three point attempts were assisted. All 114 of those long-balls came off of passes when Frye floated to the open spot, and that came on a team that he joined for the final third of the season.

More time with this offense, more time with these players, and more time in his role will add to the comfort level of everyone.

The Cavaliers have willing, talented passers as their leaders in LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who can find the open man, and because they're such great scorers individually, guys like Channing Frye will constantly get open looks.

The Cavaliers have an incredible luxury on their hands: Shooters everywhere. Cleveland can trot out lineups in which LeBron James is, by far, the worst three-point shooter on the floor, and get away with it. Irving, JR Smith, LeBron, Dunleavy, and Frye? If LeBron handles the ball, who do you leave open to stop him from driving the lane? That's why Channing Frye will continue to excel in this system.

An underrated feature of his game is that while he's experienced such a boost from his outside shooting, he can still make plays inside. He's not a dominant interior player, but if he gets the ball on a roll to the basket, he can score. While the sample size is relatively small, Frye's career-best 2-pt percentage for a season was last year - he was 54.5% on the season and 59% during his 26 games in Cleveland.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Frye is that we think of him as an older veteran. This guy is not that old - he came into the NBA when LeBron James was going into his 3rd season.

He's 33, he takes care of himself, and he doesn't play a ton of minutes so he can go all out when he's in the game. He's essentially a taller version of Richard Jefferson, who showed that a solid role player can be an enormous boost in the NBA Finals. 

And in the 2nd round of the playoffs, if you need a guy to go absolutely bonkers from beyond the arc, Frye can do that too.

 

Cleveland has a lot to look forward to next season, and Channing Frye hitting wide-open 3s is one of them.

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