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Cleveland Cavaliers Youth Report: Dante Exum makes his debut

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Cavs young core is still performing well against other teams with a losing record.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Here is the youth report for the week of December 23rd through 29th.

Player of the week: Collin Sexton

Averages this week: 21.3 points, 2 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 45.6 FG%, 0 3P%, 50 TS% in three games

Two solid performances and one stinker for Sexton this week. While he continuously battled against the Timberwolves, he was not immune to the disease of sloppiness that went over the whole team.

While the 5-17 performance dragged down his percentages, he was one of the few players to show up against the Boston Celtics and was very good against the Atlanta Hawks.

You’d like to see him at least attempt a couple three pointers, as he hasn’t made one in over two weeks. But at least he is being aggressive attacking the rim and providing them with consistent scoring.

With Jordan Clarkson gone, Sexton is the only real perimeter go-to guy if you need a bucket. Say what you want about his efficiency or where he fits into long-term plans, there is value in being the workhorse that gets you 18-20 points every night.

He is not skilled at creating shots for others, but in shouldering that usage it can help keep other players in roles that are more manageable for their current skillset.

Kevin Porter Jr.

Averages this week: 13.7 points, 2.3 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 51.7 FG%, 25 3P%, 53.4 TS% in three games

After starting off with a strong game against Atlanta on both ends of the floor, Porter Jr. had a fairly quiet week. He stuffed his stats a little by scoring in garbage time against the Celtics, but overall was poor in that outing.

The most notable thing to look at with Porter Jr. from this week is the shift in minutes with Clarkson gone.

He averaged 26 minutes per night and didn’t look out of place doing so. Yes you would like to see a little more consistency with his outside shot, but it’s not like that was something you could rely on with Clarkson.

Porter Jr. brings legitimate two-way potential and with Clarkson gone, it makes it much easier for John Beilein to get creative with how he deploys his guards. Sexton and Garland have looked better in their minutes apart. Plus, the chemistry between Porter Jr. and Garland has been worth keeping an eye on.

But with Porter Jr. getting these minutes, starting really isn’t necessary. The three guards all are playing over half the game and shouldn’t be logging heavy minutes in a developmental season anyways. It seems as though the long-term plan is for Garland and Porter Jr. to be the starting backcourt, but they’ll have to earn it.

Darius Garland

Averages this week: 13.7 points, 1.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 56.3 FG%, 45.5 3P%, 63.2 TS% in three games

Let’s start with the absolute stinker Garland put forward against the Boston Celtics. Yes, he didn’t look right after rolling his ankle early on. However he wasn’t much better before that and floated around for the most part.

But that game was sandwiched between two very solid scoring performances from Garland, with 21 points on 9-14 shooting against Atlanta and 18 on 8-11 against Minnesota.

The Minnesota game was particularly interesting because it was the first chance we got to see Garland play a meaningful role in a game’s final minutes. After being subbed out with foul trouble, he came in late and immediately hit a three and a step back mid-range shot to give the team some breathing room.

I’d like to see more playmaking from him overall. Especially coming off a week where he produced a couple outings with respectable assist totals. But it’s worth keeping an eye on what he does in that category with Sexton off the floor.

Garland has a 21.5 AST% in the month of December when Sexton sits and 13.5 AST% when they play together. Now that they’ll be staggered a little more, it’ll give Garland a chance to prove whether or not he can be trusted with more play making responsibilities.

Cedi Osman

Averages this week: 11.7 points, 2.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 42.4 FG%, 28.6 3P%, 49.7 TS% in three games

Saturday’s game against the Timberwolves put a damper on a fairly solid week from Osman. He can be prone to stretches where he is doing most things right on the court, but his outside shot just stops going in.

He also blew a dunk on Garland’s most flashy pass of the season with a behind the back lead pass in transition. So depriving us of a highlight isn’t going to do him many favors.

To his credit, he did make some timely defensive plays against the Wolves. But the unreliable offensive output coupled with how he responds to missing shots shows why he is still just a rotation player for this team long term.

Dante Exum

Averages this week: 8.5 points, 0.5 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 60 FG%, 50 3P%, 67.2 TS% in two games

While the Jordan Clarkson trade was mostly about picks and flexibility, Dante Exum is still an intriguing reclamation project for the Cavs. He is a few months younger than Cedi Osman and has been buried in Utah.

Injuries have been the story of Exum’s career. Trying to develop him in Utah has been nearly impossible the last few seasons. The team has had hopes of contention and the lack of his availability has made integrating him tough to pull off. If he can overcome the freak injuries he’s suffered and figure some things out with more opportunity, he could be a worthwhile rotation player.

He’s already likely the Cavs best perimeter defender (low bar) and has historically done a good job taking care of the basketball. If Kevin Porter Jr. absorbing the bulk of Jordan Clarkson’s usage, Exum could provide a much better version of what Dellavedova brings to the table.

At 6-5 he can play alongside any of the Cavs guards and could bring some stability to the second unit. Whether or not he can stay healthy will be the biggest question.

Stats as of Dec. 29th