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Why Isaac Okoro’s Summer League performances should get Cavs fans excited

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While Okoro didn’t suddenly become the next star overnight he did show great strides that will only benefit the Cavs in the 2021-2022 season.

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

When Isaac Okoro was drafted last year, it was well known his offense would be a work in progress. Okoro flashed NBA potential as a great defender due to his promising build and a relentless defensive motor. Okoro’s rookie season played out the way everyone could have expected. It was a great display of not only his effort but also the potential for growth into a valuable two-way player.

Offensively, Okoro grew more confident throughout the season showing flashes of where his offensive game could reach. And at summer league, Okoro showed that he has grown more comfortable in his ability to not only create chances for others but become the aggressor offensively.

Heading into this Summer League Cavalier staffers focused on Okoro handling more primary ball-handler situations. This built on Okoro’s last few weeks of last season where he handled a lot more of pick and roll situations. He looked more comfortable in these types of offensive sets than being off-ball relying on three and cuts to the basket.

Okoro’s performances against the Rockets and Magic continued to show more of a feel in these types of situations. Against the Rockets he displayed the development of his handle by just cruising past defenders like Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun. Okoro showed last year he had a decent touch around the rim, but his issue was that he never seemed to hit the right angles. This would cause him to have to get pretty crafty on the glass. Now it seems that as the primary ball-handler it allows him to find the exact points where to attack the opposing defense. Not to mention he made some waves on Twitter for some of his summer league yams.

A play that stood out in one of these pick and roll sets was against the Magic; it was around the 8:50 mark in the second quarter. Okoro secured the defensive rebound and brought the ball up on the fast break. Kabengele trailed Okoro in transition to open up a weak side screen allowing Okoro to keep the defense in a drop coverage. The Magic’s defense then crashed in forcing the weak side defender closer to the basket. Okoro then dished out a nicely timed pass to Matt Ryan for an open three.

It wasn’t all nice point-god level moments from Okoro as against the Rockets he had more turnovers (3) than assists (2). Against the Magic, it was not much better with 3 turnovers and assists. Now, to be fair to Okoro, the Cavs summer league roster was not a team constructed to have offensive fluidity. This made the summer league offense look rigid and it took a lot of movement for points to be scored.

In transition last season, Okoro would rarely have the ball in his hands. Instead, he was more likely to be ahead on the wing or cutting to the basket. Against the Rockets and Magic, Okoro actually got a chance to run the fastbreak. Possessions would end with him either dishing it out to move the ball up the court or dipping his shoulder and attacking the rim.

Some could argue that Okoro should look as dominant attacking the rim because he is a season into his NBA experience. While that is what should be expected from a second-year player it is still nice that Okoro could essentially get to the rack whenever he felt like it.

While many were hoping to see Okoro come into Summer League displaying his improvement in shooting beyond the arc, we might have to wait a little bit longer. While his shot form looks a lot less animatronic it still shows little to no sign of improving percentage-wise. It is unfair to think halfway through a summer that he would become Ray Allen. All Okoro has to do to keep defenses honest by improving his three-point percentage. Even if he improves from 29% last season to 33% and that would be enough to threaten opposing teams.

Defensively, Okoro showed more of what Cavs’ fans have come to expect after his rookie season. Whether it was Green or Jalen Suggs, Okoro was essentially scotch tape to both highly touted guards. If you blindly look at the box score for the Rockets game you would see Green still managed to score 23 points on 50%. That is probably the hardest a player had to work this summer league to score on 50% of his shots. Okoro was a piece of scotch tape and was draped all over Green. Green had to go deep in his bag to score from all levels of the floor.

Against Suggs, it was the same story. When matched with the Magic guard Okoro was constantly forcing Suggs to alter his shot at the cup. Suggs was visibly frustrated at points in this game due to Okoro’s defensive play. The Magic were constantly trying to get Suggs and Cole Anthony off Okoro through many picks for them to get some room to breathe.

Overall, Okoro showed a lot to look forward to this upcoming season. Isaac looks more comfortable offensively and shouldn’t look as pedestrian next season especially with Darius and now Mobley offering up great looks for others. If Okoro can just keep working on that jumper and stay as assertive towards the rim as he displayed in Summer League, he is on his way to becoming a great two-way player.