The Cavaliers picked up their most impressive win of the season this week with a 126-101 win over the full strength Toronto Raptors. The Cavs followed that up with three straight losses where they didn’t look particularly good at all. Here’s what we learned from the up and down week.
Cedi Osman plays the right way even if his shots aren’t falling
One of the constant themes about Osman this year is that he looks like a potential NBA-level starter when his three-point shot is falling. Conversely when his outside shot isn’t falling it’s hard to see what exactly his long term potential is. Osman has had a rough month of March as he’s shooting 37 percent from the floor while averaging 12.6 points on 12.5 shots per game this month.
While those obviously aren’t the numbers you’d like to see from Osman, it is encouraging that his shooting slump hasn’t affected his outside attempts. Osman continues to take open threes within the flow of the offense which is what you want to see from a young player. As a result, he was able to turn around his outside shooting a bit as he went six of seven from three against Dallas to close the week.
Osman hasn’t allowed his recent slump to influence how he approaches the game. While you’d prefer the shots to fall, it’s hard to fault a guy for taking the correct shots if they come within the flow of the offense. At this point in the Cavs’ rebuild the process is more important than the results. The process has been right for Osman this week. Hopefully the results will come with him being a more consistent shooter.
Kevin Love finally completed an outlet pass
Love capped off the most exciting win this season with one of his patented outlet passes to Osman to seal the game. It was the first time since coming back from injury that Love has completed one of those long passes for an easy basket:
Love is one of the best outlet passers in the league, but he hasn’t been able to complete these passes with any level of consistency since his primary target LeBron James left. Hopefully Love can find a new target for the future as the Cavs’ current nucleus is better served playing in transition than operating in half court. A few easy baskets like this would be a small step in helping the overall efficiency of the offense.
Collin Sexton is playing his best basketball of the season
The rookie has scored an efficient 27, 28, 26, 23 and 28 points in his last five games. In that time period Sexton’s shooting splits are .555/.515/.895 on 6.6 three-point attempts a game.
One of the biggest improvements that Sexton has made is in his shot selection. When his defender collapses to the basket Sexton isn’t afraid to shoot from the outside. During this five game stretch Sexton is shooting 58.8 percent on 3.4 pull up threes a game.
Plays like the one below generally illustrate how he’s been getting these pull up threes. His defender usually goes under the pick and the help defender typically stays in the paint and allows the jump shot like illustrated here:
Teams have allowed Sexton open shots form the outside for most of the season and surprisingly he’s proven to be a consistent shooter this season. The rookie is now shooting 40.2 percent from three on the year on 3.2 attempts per game and 83.5 percent from the line. Opponents will adjust to Sexton’s outside shot and will probably not allow him to keep getting open looks like this next season. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to that in his sophomore season.
Projecting Sexton’s future remains complicated
One of the most common mistakes made when evaluating young players is to place too much value on small stretches of good play instead of the overall body of work. Sexton’s overall body of work doesn’t jump off the page like his post all-star break performances do. It’s important to keep that in mind when trying to project his future.
Sexton is in the midst of his best five game stretch of basketball this season, but even at his best he still isn’t setting up teammates like you would hope. In that stretch Sexton is second on the team with 3.8 assists per game and not close to the six assists per game you’d hope for from your starting point guard on the year.
One of the things that is evident with Sexton is that he wasn’t prepared for the NBA and still doesn’t know how to run an NBA offense. As Chris Fedor from cleveland.com pointed out this week, Sexton still needs to develop in running the offense.
Sexton came into the league completely unprepared for what an NBA team expects from their starting point guard. On one hand, he has adjusted his shot selection to what you would expect for your starting point guard. The hope would be that he has shown to be teachable in that area and could hopefully learn how to also run an NBA offense once he has a full off-season under his belt. On the other hand, NBA teams aren’t always patient with their young players. If a point guard doesn’t understand at least the basics of running an offense, then it may be best to move that player off-ball.
The team has experimented with playing Sexton off-ball more as they’ve started him alongside Brandon Knight since the trade deadline. Sexton has played well offensively off-ball and has shown to be a good enough shooter to potentially play that role on offense. However, the evaluation becomes tricky on the other end of the floor considering Sexton is listed at 6’2” and that might be generous. If the Cavs moved him off-ball, the traditional point guard would ideally have to be able to defend opposing shooting guards because Sexton doesn’t have the height or reach to guard traditional shooting guards.
This is where the Cavs could be forced to make a difficult decision this off-season. Koby Altman appears to be open to the idea of drafting another point guard based on the number of times he’s been seen scouting Ja Morant. While Sexton could possibly work playing off-ball with a more traditional point guard, a starting back court can’t survive defensively with two players under 6’3”.
Projecting Sexton remains difficult because at his best he’s shown to be a good scorer, but even at his best there are still obvious holes in his game. Depending on where their pick falls the Cavs could be forced to decide this off-season whether or not Sexton is the starting point guard of the future. Sexton’s last 12 games could go a long way in determining what course the front office takes