After spending his NBA rookie season (1988-89) as an apprentice in the Phoenix Suns backcourt department, alongside future All-Star Kevin Johnson, Steve Kerr was ready for the big-time action. The call came very quickly – on September 5th, 1989, Kerr was traded from the rising Phoenix Suns to Eastern Conference powerhouse, legit title contender – Cleveland Cavaliers.
In Ohio, Kerr was soon asked to fill in as a reliable back-up for the starting point guard Mark Price. Although Kerr was a tweener (e.g., the player caught in between positions), in his case shooting guard in the body of a point guard, second-year pro did a great job of directing 1989-90 Cavs offense.
On a great delight of the Cavs head coach Lenny Wilkens, he quickly emerged as a leader of the team’s second unit. As an instant spark of the bench, he directed the offense and provided an instant scoring punch.
Moreover, as the 1989-90 season progressed, Wilkens more and more used Kerr as an off-guard in a three-guard rotation, which featured him, Mark Price, and Craig Ehlo.
Remember, back in those days, Detroit Pistons were the NBA championship setting a high benchmark for all of the potential future title contenders. So many of those teams considered having a three-guard rotation. The 1989-90 Cleveland Cavaliers three-guard rotation proved both highly effective and efficient in the three-point field goal categories – that season, they combined for 329 triples with 43.0% accuracy!
That season Kerr had his most productive season with the Cavs – while appearing in 21.3 minutes per game, he averaged 6.7 points and 3.2 assists per game while turning the ball over just 0.9 times per game. But Kerr’s most significant achievement of the 1989-90 campaign was in the category of the three-point field goal efficiency in which he led the league with 50.7% accuracy from beyond the arc!
That season, trailing sizzling Kerr were the three elite three-point experts – Craig Hodges (Chicago Bulls; 48.1%), Drazen Petrovic (Portland Trail Blazers; 45.9%) and Jon Sundvold (Miami Heat; 44.0%).
However, due to injuries of the Cavs key frontline personnel, forward Larry Nance and center Brad Dougherty, and 1989-90 Cleveland Cavaliers finished the season with a mediocre 42-40 record, before being eliminated from the Philadelphia 76ers by 2-3 in the first round of the 1990 NBA playoffs.
Kerr provided the Cavs with the firepower for another two seasons until December 2nd, 1992, when he was traded to Orlando Magic. After a brief Disneyland adventure alongside future superstar Shaquille O’Neal it looked that Kerr’s career might have turned into just another journeyman’s tour of the NBA. But 28-year guard soon permanently settled with the 1991-1993 NBA champions Chicago Bulls.