Quietly, over the past year, the Cavaliers have transformed themselves into a team that shoots similarly to the rival Golden State Warriors. So far this season, Cleveland has attempted more of its shots beyond the arc than Golden State (38.7 percent of all attempts, second to the Houston Rockets) and made a better percentage of them (39.1 percent, second to the San Antonio Spurs). This is a continuation of what the Cavaliers did during last season's title run. So much for the notion that a jump-shooting team can't win the championship.
All that happened before Cleveland added Korver, whose 42.9 percent career 3-point shooting ranks third among active players behind Stephen Curry and Steve Novak, per Basketball-Reference.com. The Cavaliers could potentially surround LeBron James with four players who shoot at least 39.7 percent from downtown this season (Korver, 2016 deadline pickup Channing Frye, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love). Good luck defending that.
For the most part, Korver will presumably replace the struggling Mike Dunleavy in Cleveland's rotation while also picking up some minutes from the likes of Jordan McRae and Kay Felder in the short term. Comparing Korver's shot distribution to Dunleavy's shows how this trade will make Korver's life easier.
According to SportVU tracking on NBA.com/Stats, just 15.8 percent of Dunleavy's shots came with the closest defender within 4 feet. By comparison, more than twice as many of Korver's shots (32.9 percent) were so heavily contested.
Yet Dunleavy hadn't been able to take advantage of the open looks. Korver surely will. Merely applying his current shooting percentages by nearest defender to Dunleavy's shot distribution pushes Korver's 3-point percentage from its current 41.1 percent all the way to 43.6 percent.
Something similar applies to Korver, who will turn 36 in March. Korver's down 2015-16 season seemed primarily based on his own offseason surgery (ankle). It's just not realistic for any player, even one who works as hard as Korver, to maintain career-best level of play into his 30s.
I should note that Atlanta has been 13.8 points per 100 possessions better with Korver on the bench this season, according to NBA.com/Stats. While it's hard to believe that offensive improvement with Korver sitting is anything but noise, it's possible the defensive upgrade is more permanent.
Korver made himself into a capable wing defender with the Hawks (and the Chicago Bulls before them), but at some point his physical limitations may be impossible to overcome. It's hard to see Korver staying on the court against the Warriors' starting five, though their bench offers many friendlier hiding spots.
Still, at worst, Korver should be an upgrade on Dunleavy. At best, Cleveland has added another weapon to an offense that already features plenty of them.
Korver may provide the most value over the next couple of months as the Cavaliers navigate J.R. Smith's absence. This trade will pay off if Korver's addition means an extra win for Cleveland that helps hold off the Toronto Raptors for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.