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Cleveland Cavaliers roundtable: Late summer vibe check

Let’s talk summer signings, Collin Sexton and more.

Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Have the good vibes of last season worn off for you yet/have you feeling optimistic for next season?

Corey Walsh (@common_cor): The good vibes live on. While I understand the uphill battle the Cavaliers are facing this season in the deep Eastern Conference, I also see roadmaps for how this team can match if not surpass the results they achieved last season. This team still has growth in the tank from players like Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, Isaac Okoro has room to grow offensively, and we still have no idea what Collin Sexton can truly do for this team in a refined role. Not to mention the core trio of Mobley, Garland, and Allen really didn’t get a ton of tread together last season. I think the ceiling for this young Cavalier team is hard to determine but I am certain that this team’s vibes are going to be immaculate.

Imari McPherson (@Imari_M17): The good vibes of last season have never left. In fact, it’s last year’s good vibes that should have the entire fanbase excited and optimistic about the upcoming season. No, I’m not saying the Cavaliers should win a championship just yet, but it’s clear that this team is building something special. In addition to having the young and exciting core of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Kevin Love looks as rejuvenated as ever, and Ochai Agbaji will bring some optimism into a lineup that is in need of consistent outside shooting and perimeter defense, two things he did well during his time at Kansas that ended with a national championship.

Mike Anguilano (@anguilanom22): Oh they are still here, especially with Ricky Rubio being back on the roster and Collin Sexton (probably?) being healthy and contributing. I think the expectations will be raised a bit, which always gives some worry, but the growth of this team is tantalizing as a fan. Health will be a big factor in the “good vibes” of this team, but all signs are pointing to a really fun, young squad that will give opposing teams fits. When it was apparent last season that the Cavs were back in the playoff hunt, I did initially have some dread along with the excitement. Raised expectations can lead to bigger disappointment. But heading into the season, things are looking up.

Fill in the blank: The offseason additions - Ricky Rubio returning, Ochai Agbaji, Raul Neto, Robin Lopez — are ____ .

CW: Reassuring. Last season the Cavaliers underwent a lot of what felt like patchwork fixes to the various amount of injuries in their lineup. The lack of depth caused major cracks to show throughout the course of the season. Having stable veterans in the locker room is never a bad thing. Each of the Cavs’ additions brings a concrete skill that will clearly outline their role when their name was called. If we learned anything from last year you never know when these depth pieces will be in the starting five.

IM: The answer to this sentence is “a start.” Having a veteran presence in your locker room is never a negative and Rubio, Neto and Lopez will bring that. Having Rubio back will be a big plus if he is able to reproduce what he did last season before suffering a major knee injury. While Rubio is not old by any stretch, he will turn 32 years old in October while coming off the aforementioned knee injury, which begs the question: “just how effective will he be?” Something I think could be asked of every player mentioned here. Neto and Lopez are not world beaters, but what can they do to make this team even better than last year?

MA: Necessary, but not flashy. Given that Rubio will be out for at least half the season rehabbing a torn ACL, Neto is a safe stopgap. No offense to Moses Brown, but having Robin Lopez as the backup big is another stable upgrade to a critical area of the roster - especially given that Allen and Mobley missed time last season. The wild card is Ochai Agbaji, who could find himself with some sudden playing time if he is making shots. He looked comfortable in Summer League getting to his spots, shooting from various areas and movements, and with a hand in his face. We will have to see how that translates to the faster live NBA game.

What do you make of Collin Sexton’s ongoing restricted free agency?

CW: Collin is just simply a victim of the NBA dry season. Free agency does not seem to be the silly season it once was. Big-name players very rarely hit the open market these days so teams rather than having cap space have assets that they want to move for marquee talent. When Collin hit the market the number of teams that could tempt him with an offer sheet was slim. Then those very teams decided to stick with their homegrown talent or cheaper options. The Cavaliers are one of those teams that rather than what they perceive as overpaying Sexton would rather see what he provides to the team this season and either resign him or trade him for something in return.

IM: Simply put, it’s been drawn out longer than it needs to be. I think Sexton is a victim of circumstance, actually. He’s an highly drafted, undersized guard that can produce 20+ point games that was perfect for the Cavaliers of old. For better or worse, his injury helped pave a way for Garland to flourish into the player he became last year, but now, how would they fit together? It’s clear Sexton does not have much of a market, but he is not a bad player and could help a team that needs what he brings. While the Cavs do not need Sexton, he could help the team and they have given him his only offer that we know of. Bring him back and see what he can do.

MA: I would not have guessed things would have dragged on like they have, but pretty much everything that could have gone wrong for Collin has. Since reportedly he turned down the Cavs lucrative offer and bet on himself, it has been downhill. His situation is the byproduct of a numerous external changes around the league that all went against him. From the lottery, the draft, money drying up in free agency, and potential suitors bowing out, it has given the Cavs leverage in difficult scenario. Whether Sexton takes the qualifying offer or a deal has worked out, something will have to happen soon as we get nearer to training camp.

Would it matter to you if Sexton remains unsigned/his situation is unresolved when training camp opens?

CW: It wouldn’t bother me as much as it would make me cautious. It reminds me in a way of the Deandre Ayton Phoenix situation. Whereas valuable as the player is to the team they obviously are very divided on what they feel the player is worth versus what the player believes he is worth based on the market. Collin wouldn’t make things hostile and I don’t think that the Cavs would limit what Sexton could do to “limit his worth”. This all being said, nm if I had to place a bet on where Sexton would be playing in the 2023-2024 season it would be for the wine and gold.

IM: Not sure if this is a good thing, but no. I don’t believe that his absence would be some sort of distraction for the team and if he should remain absent the closer the team gets to the regular season, they will do everything they can to make sure he is able to perform at his best once he returns. Regardless of what happens, I believe he will make his return and play for the team. At that point, it will be all about how he adjusts to a roster that he is no longer the head of and what he will be able to do to, should he not sign a multi-year extension, that will help his case going into unrestricted free agency on a team that wants to do more than just make the playoffs. The ball will be in Sexton’s court to improve his murky perception and value, pun very much intended.

MA: That was an unintentional segue from my previous answer! I think it is a negative to have the situation drag into training camp. It hangs a cloud over the team. The media will ask questions about it, and that gets old quickly. From a game-planning perspective, he is a major contributor and integrating him back into the rotation will take time. He has had such limited time on the court with the team last season, so there will be growing pains too. Ultimately, I think the Cavs will be able to work through them. But the pressure will be on Sexton to prove his worth and value in the league, and on the Cavs to quickly assess the situation and plan for the present and future.