The burden of expectations has weighed heavy on the Collin Sexton experience during his rookie year.
With the selection of #2 on his jersey, it’s hard to escape the fact that Sexton is the main return for one of the most important players in franchise history. An unfair standard for any rookie, forget an eighth overall pick with a long road ahead of him to round out his game.
Entering the season, it was hard to point at anything Sexton did well as a signature skill outside of his speed. The three point percentage was fine, but it was at such a low volume with an absence of free throw attempts that his true shooting percentage was still abysmal.
But as the year has progressed, there has been meaningful growth in Sexton’s game. The franchise has tried to build a culture around players with a strong work ethic, and so far that seems to be paying dividends.
Sexton has gone from averaging 1.9 three point attempts in 2018, to 4.6 attempts in 2019. While the volume increases, so has his efficiency as he is shooting 44 percent on those attempts since the New Year.
While there has been some growth in his ability to create opportunities for teammates (5.3 potential assists per game pre All Star break to 6.7 post), it still remains sub par. Sexton has also looked like a 19 year old rookie point guard on the defensive end. But his improved shooting raises the floor on what he can be, and could help open up other aspects of his game if he dedicates himself to studying the game this summer.
The immediate dividends on that growth is one of the best rookie scoring stretches we’ve seen in a wine and gold uniform. With Thursday’s 27 point outing, Sexton tied Austin Carr’s rookie record of six consecutive 20 point games, passing LeBron James’ mark of 5.
Not only that, the six straight 23 point outings is something that hasn’t been done by a rookie since Tim Duncan in 1998.
As previously mentioned, the holes in Sexton’s game and how he approaches them will go a long way towards determining his ceiling. There are plenty of players that have come into the league with a strong work ethic, but work on the wrong things.
The fact that he has dedicated himself to working on his outside shot and grown this much in-season is truly remarkable. Between games and travel, NBA teams simply don’t have a ton of time to practice during the year.
There are plenty of players that thrived on midrange shots in college and are never able to break the habit in the pros. A willingness to accept that the most featured part of his game early on was actually a weakness and to amend that in such a dramatic way is an impressive display of maturity.
The past 34 games have raised the floor for Collin Sexton. It is now on the team to put the right coaches and mentors in place to help nurture his growth, and on Sexton to be receptive to the feedback they provide.