In terms of appeasing LeBron James, there’s no better pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 8 than Collin Sexton. He’s exactly the type of scoring- and defense-first point guard with whom James has succeeded in the past; it’s not imperative that Sexton be able to create for others when he plays on the same team as James. Of course, that shouldn’t be the only consideration for Cleveland in the days ahead of Thursday’s NBA Draft, but with so much of the franchise wrapped around James’ finger come July 1, drafting the player he likes best (as long as it’s not a massive reach) makes sense for the Cavaliers. Whether James stays or goes, Sexton will fit Cleveland’s team like a glove.
In an era where a lot of top point guards are score-first, pass-later, Sexton fits this period in league history perfectly. A developing three-level scorer, he can get to the rim with a lightning-quick first step, already possesses a strong pull-up mid-range jumper, and can punish defenses who go under ball screens at the three-point line. He’s not perfect—that three-point jumper can be shaky at times and he’ll have to prove he can hit it consistently before teams guard him out there—but he’s already an aggressive, efficient scorer in the half-court and transition to take some of the usage load from James or take the lead guard responsibilities for a less competitive team.
Sexton will immediately make slow-footed defenders look silly in pick-and-roll defense with his left-hand hesitation dribble:
A lot of college guards come into the league having relied on their top-end speed for most of their career, and while Sexton does have problems with this at times, he knows how to change gears in pick-and-roll to draw defenders toward him before accelerating to the rim. He doesn’t have the tightest handle among point guards at the top of the draft, but that should improve early in his career.
The drives to the basket are created by a very good pull-up jumper, whether in mid-range or from beyond the three-point line:
It remains to be seen whether that three-point jumper can be extended to the NBA line, but Sexton will be a scoring threat from day one based on his mid-range game and ability to get to the rim at will. Creation for others, on the other hand, may take a few years to develop, as Sexton is absolutely a score-first guard with subpar vision, handle, and passing with the type of questionable decision making that might warrant a second primary ball handler on the floor with him to be more of a creator for others. Fortunately, that’s exactly what they would have in James should he choose to remain in Cleveland this summer, but if not, head coach Tyronn Lue and his staff might have to get creative about how the ball is going to move around the court with Sexton as the only lead ball handler.
His finishing numbers weren’t fantastic at Alabama; he was significantly dinged by his relative inability to get in the lane and find his teammates, either in the dunker spot along the baseline or on the perimeter for open shots. Some of that might have had to do with Alabama’s lack of talent around him, but there were lots of instances where he simply missed the wide-open man under the basket or in the corner while throwing up a wild contested layup that had very little chance of going in. The additional spacing in the NBA should open things up a bit more for Sexton and his vision should develop as he has the ball in his hands for more total possessions than he did in college, but his creation for his teammates is a major concern at this point. Then again, if he develops into the three-level scorer he has the potential to be, whether he creates at a high level for his teammates isn’t going to be nearly as important.
Defensively, Sexton is fantastic at the point of attack or when he’s directly involved in the action, but has a frustrating tendency to lose focus when he’s off the ball. He’ll step onto the NBA floor with the ability to defend most point guards in the league, using his combination of length and quickness to get through screens, harass ball handlers, and contest shots. Teams that run a large amount of pick-and-roll with their point guard will play right into Sexton’s hands. He has a phenomenal work rate and takes matchups personally, as he did with Trae Young in Alabama’s game against Oklahoma this season.
When he’s not fully engaged, he loses track of his man far too easily:
In the above clip, Sexton stays with his man well through the staggered down screens, slipping through both screens and blowing up any chance that his mark would be able to walk into an open three, but once the action moves away from him, he relaxes and his man finds an open three as a result. This was a consistent problem for him during his freshman year and while his defensive concentration should improve with high-level coaching at the NBA level, it’s another concern for teams drafting him in the lottery this year.
Collin Sexton is clearly one of the best point guard prospects in this draft, with an ability to create for himself on the offensive end and defend his position with a bit of switchability on the other side of the court. No matter what James’ decision is with regards to his free agency this summer, Sexton would play a big part on the Cavaliers immediately—with James, he’d be the secondary scorer Cleveland was hoping Isaiah Thomas and George Hill would be this past season, while bringing solid point-of-attack defense to the table, and without James, he’d be asked to develop his passing and vision to round out his offensive game. With a great work rate and, by all reports, a hard worker willing to learn, Sexton shouldn’t have trouble ironing out the kinks in his game to become the all-around guard the Cavaliers need.