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Roundtable: Isaac Okoro vs. Devin Vassell, J.B. Bickerstaff’s impact and more

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It’s all about wing defense.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Who would you prefer with the fifth pick: Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassell or someone else?

Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): I’m on #TeamOkoro right now. Vassell might be a better team defender right now and more polished, but Okoro has lockdown defender upside and is the kind of big, physical wing the Cavs just do not have. Shot concerns and all, I’d take a swing at him.

Evan Dammarell (@AmNotEvan): I’m back and forth when it comes to these two prospects. With Okoro, you’re banking on the Cavs fixing his shot and his upside. With Vassell, you get an NBA ready prospect that can defend 1-3 and is a great three-point shooter. Right now, I’d take Vassell but ask me in a day or two and I’m sure I’d take Okoro.

Jackson Flickinger (@Akron_Jackson): I like Vassell currently for the reasons Evan said, but I’m open to the Cavs taking a swing at Okoro. I believe Okoro has a higher upside but his shooting and turnover rate is worrisome. I trust the Cavs to be able to improve Okoro’s shooting, but I’m not sure how much they can improve his turnover issues. I’m not going to be mad if the Cavs take either player but I’m currently leaning towards Vassell.

How much will a full season of J.B. Bickerstaff help the Cavs’ defense?

CM: I don’t think it makes them massively better, but I do think he will help. The players like him more and some level of NBA defense is about trusting a coach and playing hard for them. It’s also true that he simplified the scheme for the Cavs and that will make things easier for younger players. I don’t think he alone will make them good on defense, but Bickerstaff will have a positive effect.

ED: I would like to hope there’s an improvement with J.B. being allowed to run a full training camp. He was able to coach the Grizzlies to the third-best defense for the 2018-19 season, allowing 106.1 points per game. Granted, that Grizzlies team had Marc Gasol for a while and this current Cavs squad doesn’t have nearly any defensive specialists. But, him having success in the past gives me hope.

JF: I don’t believe they will improve much, but I could be wrong. The Cavs biggest problem is they don’t have the necessary personnel to be a good defense. The wing and perimeter defense will still be a problem and only one of those positions will likely be addressed in the draft. Having an off-season and training camp to incorporate Andre Drummond into the defense will certainly help, but it won’t be enough to make up for all the personnel deficiencies they currently have.

What players would you have Collin Sexton and Darius Garland study for defensive purposes?

CM: I think Sexton has interesting defensive potential that doesn’t really pop in his numbers. So it’s the same answers from last week: Bledsoe, Lowry, VanVleet. As for Garland, it’s two players he’s already studied on offense: Lillard and McCollum. Neither is elite defensively, but they communicate, try and do the little things like tagging a roller to make the Blazers’ scheme work.

ED: I’d have Collin bulk up a bit more and study Eric Bledsoe. He has a freakishly long wingspan already, he just needs to learn how to use it and just become a competent defender.

For Garland, he doesn’t have the caboose like Kyle Lowry but it’s an undersized guard that he could study to learn proper positional defense and team defense as well. Maybe Fred VanVleet too. I don’t know Garland is tough but hope isn’t entirely lost if he can study either Toronto guard.

JF: I’m all for emulating what Toronto has done with their backcourt. It’s tough to give someone for Garland to study because of his body type. There aren’t really any plus defenders at that size and weight. The hope would be that as Garland matures physically he will be able to copy some of what VanVleet does. At the moment, that’s a bit of a stretch.

True or false: the Cavs can take a step forward if there isn’t a leap in defensive quality?

CM: True, to some degree. If they can take steps forward - which isn’t quite a leap! - and their talented offensive young core all take a leap on offense, the Cavs themselves can get better. But it’d be better if leaps happened on both ends.

ED: False. The Cavs have been a mess defensively the last two seasons. They have plenty of fun offensive pieces, sure. But, it doesn’t matter how potent they are offensively if they have to keep pace with their opponent all game long.

JF: False. The defense has been historically bad the last two seasons. A big leap forward from the offense wouldn’t be able to cover up the defense as is. Any leap will be because their defense has started to catch up with their offensive improvements. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening next season.