Channing Frye has yet to play a meaningful minute of basketball during the Eastern Conference Finals. He entered Game 1 with the Cavs up 17 points with 3 minutes left, joined Game 2 when the margin was a meager 46, and left his warmup on for the entire Game 3 at home.
During the sweeps of both Indiana and Toronto, Frye was one of the main cogs off Ty Lue’s bench. He played no less than 10 minutes in all 8 contests, including 19 big minutes during LeBron’s epic Game 3 performance at Indiana (the comeback). Frye was effective too. He scored in double figures 4 times, shot 24-40 from the field, 16-27 from 3, had one negative +/- game, and only accounted for only 1 turnover. You guys remember this?
How can we explain Frye’s sudden benching? Remember, the Cavs looked vulnerable on the eve of the playoffs, and Frye had a key role in getting the machine revamped to the tune of 8 straight victories.
Ty Lue kept the rotation to 9 throughout the first two rounds. The five starters plus Deron Williams, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, and Channing Frye. That left one glaring omission, Sir Richard Jefferson, out of the rotation.
Sorry to show this Warrior fans, but watch the bald guy in black cleverly cut to the opposite corner to free Kyrie up for the biggest moment in Cleveland sports history.
That’s Sir Richard!
The extraordinary “physically play like you’re 27 when you turn 32” book that LeBron and Deron Williams are reading religiously right now is no longer in stock in the Jefferson Family Library. At 36, Jefferson has looked much slower laterally this year. His two monstrous Christmas Day dunks on Thompson and Durant we’re complete aberrations. Combine Shumpert’s defensive superiority and Korver’s offensive prowess, and Richard Jefferson quickly became to odd wing man out. 10 guys is usually on the high side for playoff rotation stability, and with LeBron playing virtually every minute of every game, that is further exaggerated. You gotta find 9!
Stylistically, Boston represents a pivot in playing styles that the Cavs will encounter moving forward. Paint dwellers like Jonas Valancianus and Kevin Seraphin are in the rearview. Frye’s patented pick-and-pop action drives traditional centers crazy, as their natural inclination to protect the rim. Horford, Olynyk, and presumably eventually Draymond Green are vastly more competent engaging around the perimeter on both sides of the ball. Frye’s defense would be tested in similar fashion to that of Marcin Gortat in the previous series, in which Gortat had to consistently close-out on Horford, and then stop his ensuing drive. It was a painful exercise! Draymond Green is even more deadly in these situations, just ask Zach Randolph.
Outside of the when Boston plays both Olynyk and Horford together, which they did down the stretch of Game 3, Frye doesn’t really have a potential place in this series. It’s hard to through a guy in cold that late in the game. Boston plays really small, and LeBron is pushed to the 4 in many lineups. TT or Love will always get those minutes at center when going up against the well-rounded Horford.
Golden State is obviously a much tougher cover defensively than Boston, with or without Isaiah Thomas. Richard Jefferson has the size, tenacity, and mental stability to occasionally contain the likes of Durant or Thompson. Cleveland’s roar back from 3-1 doesn’t happen with RJ’s defensive versatility and grit. Cleveland is hoping that June ’16 RJ magically returns. It is dearly needed.
During Game 3, Cleveland even unveiled the switch-everything lineup of Williams-Shumpert-Korver-Jefferson-LeBron as the Cleveland lead looked promising in the 2nd Quarter. Ty Lue was literally strategizing for Golden State during an Eastern Conference Finals game! That’s what this league is coming too…
Despite Jefferson’s disappointing 2016 Finals encore thus far, his services will undoubtedly be called upon from here on out. As a direct result of stylistic inconvenience and roster depth, Channing Frye is essentially done for the season from a basketball standpoint. Last year, Frye dropped 27 in an Eastern Conference Final game against Atlanta before realizing the same fate. Golden State gives you no choice.
The NBA is a tough business for 7-footers these days, and occasionally even those with deadly perimeter shooting abilities. Sometimes the matchups simply say no. Frye is done as his podcast partner rejoins the fray. For Cleveland supporters, one can only hope that Sir Richard starts to pick up where Channing Frye recently left off.