Originally the No. 27 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, Larry Nance Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers midway through the 2017-18 NBA season.
As the Lakers took a significant step in clearing salary cap space to sign two max-contract players in free agency this summer, Nance returned to his hometown team. Now, he is making his first NBA Finals appearance, with the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors meeting a fourth consecutive year.
After missing the playoffs during his time in Los Angeles, the 25-year-old has been a solid contributor for Cleveland when given the opportunity. Appearing in 16 playof games for head coach Tyronn Lue, Nance is averaging 4.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and nearly one block in just 14.9 minutes.
Ahead of Game 1, Nance reflected on his time with the Lakers and what it means playing for the Cavaliers, via Mark Medina of The Mercury News:
“It’s been wild,” Nance Jr. said. “Obviously, coming into the league with the Lakers, our goals weren’t NBA championship. Being able to flip the script, end up on this team here, being the team my dad played for, being where I’ve grown up and the team I rooted for my entire life, now I’m playing with arguably the greatest player of all-time, and potential to win a ring, is pretty unbelievable. I got to play with Kobe Bryant, now I get to play with LeBron James, stories I’m going to have…”
Prior to the season, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson identified Nance as the team’s secret weapon.
While it was difficult to part with a member of the young core, Nance was reportedly incentive for the Cavaliers to take on Jordan Clarkson’s four-year, $50 million contract.
As four former Lakers (Nance, Clarkson, Jose Calderon, and Nick Young) will participate in the 2018 NBA Finals, Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are working to make the storied franchise a perennial championship contender once again.
Depending on how it all plays out in free agency, the Cavaliers might have ultimately helped the Lakers sign LeBron James and Paul George.
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