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Youth Report: Creating and rewarding accountability

The Cavs young guards are in a healthy competition for minutes.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Vacation for myself and through the All Star break means a bigger sample size. Here is the youth report for February 3rd through February 22nd.

Player of the Weeks: Collin Sexton

Averages: 22 points, 3 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 50 FG%, 52.4 3P%, 62.5 TS% in four games

Collin Sexton rebounded from being benched against Miami with 28 and 31 point performances against Philadelphia and New Orleans.

But we know Sexton can score. He’s taken his offensive game to another level this season and is showing he can shoulder a sizable load on acceptable efficiency. But what is encouraging was that during his benching Sexton was engaged on the sidelines and invested in his team’s win.

There was no pouting, instead he responded strongly as a teammate and on the court in the next two games.

It may not be fair to attribute this solely to the coaching change, but there seems to be a push to create accountability with the Cavs. If anybody is being outplayed, they will be benched regardless of how much experience they have.

When it comes to the guards, there isn’t a veteran alternative that can still contribute on the court (sorry Delly). But while youth is still being prioritized, whichever combo of guards plays best on any given night will be given the opportunity.

Sexton has shown an acceptable level of play making for a combo guard lately. Something that will need to continue if he wants to close games. But if he really wants to solidify his spot in the lineup he’ll need to be far more attentive on the defensive end.

As we’re seeing in Houston, length can be a viable replacement for size at times. Sexton has the wingspan to make up for his height, and has shown he can make an impact on defense at times throughout the season. But while his on-ball defense has shown flashes, the attentiveness off-ball remains poor.

At this point Sexton has the highest floor out of any of the young Cavs. His scoring will ensure that he sticks in the NBA for a long time. But while he hasn’t been gifted with great vision, he does have the tools to be a legitimate plus defender. Which should be the next area of focus as he attempts to round out his game.

Darius Garland

Averages: 12.8 points, 4 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 42.3 FG%, 35.7 3P%, 48.2 TS% in four games

It was an uneven week for Garland, in an uneven season.

His performance against Miami was one of his best of the year. While the 14 points, 7 assists and 2 steals won’t blow you away, his decision making and effort on both ends of the floor all came at crucial points and were a big part of the Cavs win.

He’s still maintaining an assist to turnover ratio above two, but there hasn’t been many takeover games from Garland. While it is a positive that he tries to play pure point guard on a team that lacks one, both he and the team would benefit from more assertiveness.

The efficiency has looked better since the All Star break, outside of the loss to the Pacers. Though it’s possible the groin injury that will force him to miss Monday’s game could have factored into his performance.

Garland’s willingness to be a cog in a machine makes it easy to find time for him and match him with various teammates. He has a great feel for the game and does many subtle things well. But until he starts being more assertive it’ll be tough to view him as a major part in any machine.

Kevin Porter Jr

Averages: 16.3 points, 4.3 assists, 5 rebounds, 41.1 FG%, 34.8 3P%, 52.3 TS% in four games

The highlight of the week was Kevin Porter Jr.’s spectacular showing against the Miami Heat. He was instrumental down the stretch making decisions out of the pick and roll. As well as making the most of his physical tools by being a disruptive presence on the defensive end.

If it wasn’t for Sexton’s offensive consistency, and 31 point performance of his own, this would be Porter Jr’s week in the sun. But it’s my column so I’ll just note that he’s a 1A for this week in my eyes.

We did see some of the up and down shooting from Porter, as he failed to shoot over 40 percent in the three games after his breakout against Miami. But the activity level has still been high on both ends of the floor and it’s apparent that he’s trying to play the right way.

With J.B. Bickerstaff at the helm, it seems as though the team will give Porter more opportunities to be the ball handler in the pick and roll. Particularly when he’s paired with Sexton.

On the defensive end, the effort he gives will likely result in him closing more and more games with whichever guard(s) is playing best. But he still gets caught reaching far too often and has been foul-prone during his Cavs tenure. While some of that can be attributed to a rookie whistle, he can fall victim to trying to make a play rather than playing sound positional defense.

With his minutes in the high twenties to low thirties, he will need to show better discipline on the defensive end of the floor. The Cavs don’t have the front-court depth defensively to recover for a gambling back-court. Plus it’s tough to make an impact when you’re sitting on the bench due to foul trouble.

Cedi Osman

Averages this week: 6.5 points, 1.8 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 45.5 FG%, 23.1 3P%, 54.7 TS% in four games.

Like Garland, Osman has shown a tendency to drift away for stretches this season. He was among those benched down the stretch against Miami and is starting to see his minutes suffer as a result of his lackluster play.

The play of Kevin Porter Jr. is also causing the team to look for more and more ways to get him minutes, meaning some stretches at small forward. The shooting from outside will likely improve in the near future. However Osman will need to find his place within the hierarchy of the team and start to bring the effort the team had been accustomed to seeing from him.

Stats as of March 1.