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Cleveland Cavaliers roundtable: Collin Sexton injury fallout

Four staffers answer questions about Collin Sexton’s injury and what comes from here.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

What was your initial reaction to the Collin Sexton’s injury news?

Mike Anguilano: First and foremost, what a tough break for Collin Sexton. In a contract year he is looking to prove his worth and now he will lose out on a significant part of this critical season. I think there was a little bit of shock as well. Darius Garland, Kevin Love and Isaac Okoro gained a reputation as being a little more injury-prone, but not Sexton. He was almost the one constant on this roster, the player you felt would always be out battling. Not seeing him on the court will be difficult, for many reasons. Just a really, really tough situation.

Leah Nemeth: PAIN! Still high off the Ricky Rubio masterpiece, the news of Sexton’s injury was both perplexing and painful. The unknowns regarding severity, potential treatment options and timeline for recovery teamed up to produce a real bummer of a Monday. While Sexton has not exactly dazzled on the stat sheet, his hustle and grit will be missed in a starting 5 hitting a remarkably early and successful stride.

Imari McPherson: While initial reaction to Sexton’s injury was somber, it soon turned into optimism considering the productive pieces that the team has this year. While it will be tough to replace a 20-plus per game scorer from last season for an extended stretch, we’ve already seen improvements and/or high-level production from Cedi Osman, Lauri Markkanen and Ricky Rubio. As long as those names can keep up the production and Isaac Okoro can keep developing, this team will stay afloat.

Corey Walsh: Initially, I saw the Sexton news as a real gut punch to the Cavaliers’ morale. With the team flying high coming off a four-game win streak this is the last news you want to hear. Sexton is undisputedly the teams’ number one player that opposing teams view as the scoring threat. Now, with the timetable of the injury being in the air due to the potential severity of the tear we wait with bated breath. However, this team has fared well with injury to this point in the season with Okoro, Love, Garland and Markkanen all missing stretches of games this season.

When the team is fully healthy aside from Sexton, what should the starting five be?

MA: The Sexton injury certainly throws a wrench in the backcourt rotation, but they have some options to try and replace his productionan and capabilities. As reported prior to the season, the Cavaliers showed interest in running a backcourt of Garland and Okoro, alongside Markkanen, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. They will get that chance now with Sexton on the shelf for what looks like at least six weeks. That lineup is a blend of defense, playmaking, and athleticism while being young and energetic. The Cavs experimented with Okoro as a ball handler in the Summer League too, so he is not a complete non-factor when bringing the ball up. But until Okoro is healthy himself, I think Cedi Osman will get the call as the running mate next to Darius.

LN: The Cavs will have to rely on the young guys to maintain their energy, take care of the ball and handle the small things that ultimately translate into wins. I worry about J.B. Bickerstaff’s mild obsession with a short rotation and remain very concerned with some of the minutes I am seeing on these game logs. That said, I think you have to handle Isaac Okoro with kid gloves and trot out Darius Garland, Cedi Osman, Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. I like pairing Garland’s ability to run the floor and get to the basket with Osman’s new-found perimeter juice — here’s hoping for a happy holiday season waiting on Sexton.

IM: My first thought was to start Rubio next to Darius Garland. But Garland is the clear point guard, and, even though he just had a career-high night in New York, you won’t look to Rubio to be the leading scorer every night. I like what Osman has going for him coming off of the bench and I would not want to mess with a good thing, therefore my starting five would be Garland, Okoro, Markkanen, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. I believe that will give you at least three competent scorers and length for defense.

CW: The obvious answer would be to say Cedi should slot into Sextons’ spot. However, Cedi is a player who is currently thriving in his bench role. To take the reins off of Osman could result in the erratic play we saw plenty of last season. Rubio similarly is too valuable coming off the bench so I wouldn’t touch that either. Okoro has always been more of a two than a three and would bring a similar speed and effort Sexton brought. If Okoro doesn’t seem to provide reliable scoring in the starting lineup I would consider maybe throwing Windler out there. Therefore, I would try Garland, Okoro/Windler?, Markkanen, Mobley and Allen.

What have you thought of Sexton’s start to the season?

MA: It has been a mixed bag so far for Sexton, which is strange given the team’s success despite his subpar play. It has been an adjustment for him having the ball less and being forced to play more off-ball. He is turning the ball over at a higher clip, his shooting has not been there, and even his free throw percentage is uncharacteristically low. The Cavs have introduced some new pieces to the puzzle in Mobley and Ricky Rubio, so Sexton has had a bit of a learning curve to carve out a role. His inability to play off the ball makes him too much of a non-factor if the offense isn’t running through him, and putting the ball in his hands has not led to the microwave-style offense so far.

LN: Sexton has played well — his speed in the open floor is remarkable, he’s putting up points every night and has showcased improved passing. There is, however, a palpable shift to a Garland/Mobley/Allen-centered team. You feel it right? Blame it on the contract. Blame it on the rain. My instincts tell me Sexton’s time in Cleveland is winding down. It seems it was a matter of time and a matter of Garland owning the role of floor general this season.

IM: It’s been a mixed bag because he seems so inconsistent so far this season. He’s shooting 45% from the field, but only 24% from the perimeter despite still being the team’s leading scorer at only 16 points which is nearly eight points less per game than his average from last season. I’ve come to feel comfortable with the ball in his hands late in a game, yet, against the Raptors, I was more confident in Garland because Sexton had seemed out of control and too aggressive, finishing with nine points in 32 minutes. However, I don’t expect this slump to continue.

CW: Sexton looks like a player who was adjusting to a new role on a more talented team. It was very evident that Sexton and the coaches looked over his shot profile and started to pinpoint his most efficient spots. Despite Sexton being around his career usage rate this season, it feels completely different from the way Sexton has scored this season. With poor perimeter shooting, he generates most of his points from inside the 3 point line, opting for points off cuts and fastbreak buckets.

What part of Sexton’s game will the team miss the most while he’s out?

MA: Certainly the energy on the floor will be different without him, but right now his speed and rim pressure will be sorely missed aspects of the offense. Sexton is a blur out there, pushing the pace in transition and getting downhill with ease. Those things keep defenses off-balance and allows the rest of the offense to react to scrambling or collapsing defenses. Okoro is a good slasher and Garland is certainly fast with a good handle, but there is something different about Sexton when he gets going. He just seems like he wants it more than his opponent, and that “Bull” mentality will be difficult if not impossible to replicate.

LN: When you’re down a player like Sexton who has a special gear and leaves it all on the floor, you’re missing a true leader and you’re going to deal with a potentially massive energy deficit. Beyond his grit and hustle, Sexton’s play provides a model for the young guys in terms of perseverance. His incredible speed can often result in mishandling the ball, so I am naively hopeful that some simple math will throw us a bone here. Evan Mobley’s mind-bending, smooth moves and sneaky 3-ball may have to be enough to energetically lift and carry a blossoming, young team running without the “Bull.”

IM: Without a doubt, it’ll be his scoring ability. While it’s not always pretty at times, Sexton has been the team’s leading scorer in each of his first three seasons. Also, the team will miss the energy he brings to a game. Simply, no other player on the Cavs brings that level of intensity that Sexton plays with and it can be infectious for others. He reminds me of a young Russell Westbrook that always brought intensity and was never afraid to shoot the ball. Thankfully, Sexton has shown to be a better shooter from deep so far.

CW: His ability to kickstart a fastbreak with his blistering speed. There is no player I enjoy watching bring the ball down the court more than him. Sexton is also the player who best gravitates defenders towards his way. Overall, he truly was our most complete shooter on the team due to his ability to score in all three facets of the game. Without him, it’ll be interesting to see where this team turns not only in their starting lineup construction but the minute distribution as well. Offensively, the team has done a good job of developing and acquiring viable scoring options this season. Losing Sexton hurts, however, this shouldn’t end the season either.