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Isaac Okoro’s growth is a double-edged sword for the Cleveland Cavaliers

As the trade deadline approaches this Thursday, it appears the league has taken notice of the growth Isaac Okoro has shown on a nightly basis. 

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2023-2024 season tipped off, it appeared that the general opinion of Isaac Okoro had stagnated offensively. This general perception is that, if the Cleveland Cavaliers wanted to keep Okoro, they could do so at a reasonable price.

As many have noticed, however, Okoro has taken great strides on the offensive side of the ball. Okoro has grown into a very capable floor spacer, consistently improving on his perimeter shooting. He’s now shooting 38.5% from three on the year — a career-best number. What jumps off the screen when watching Okoro this season is that he looks so much more comfortable off the ball and shooting from various spots on the floor.

Historically, Okoro has had a limited and predictable offensive profile, leading to him being benched in clutch moments as defenders would almost dare him to shoot, knowing he preferred the corner three or attacking the rim in transition. We are now seeing instances of Okoro cutting to the basket off-ball to generate looks, while also shooting transition threes at the top of the break. If either of these occurred in prior seasons with the consistency we are seeing now, Okoro’s development wouldn’t have been viewed as capped as it became this off-season.

Okoro has paired his offensive development with a defensive resume that allows him to enter the All-NBA defensive team conversation. Isaac’s role with the team since the team has been matched up with the opposing team’s best offensive threat. For the longest time, however, Isaac Okoro has been the proverbial band-aid on the crack in the wall. Now, the team is playing a less isolation-heavy defensive style, instead having accountability one through five on the floor.

The growth on the defensive end as a team has truly allowed Okoro to take a step forward. Having a great point-of-attack defender is great, until the opposing team realizes behind that defender there are a lot of lapses and gaps. Now, with the league’s top defensive unit (net rating via Kirk Goldsberry), Okoro can play freely and dial up the aggressiveness, that playstyle for Okoro has borne fruit as the league and his teammates have taken notice.

Cleveland now finds itself in an interesting situation, as the team continues to thrive vaulting itself to the second seed in the East, it now has to look ahead as well to the salary cap situation in the coming years. Okoro’s well-deserved praise now comes with an ever-increasing price. Which, according to HoopsHype’s Micheal Scotto, could be around $14 million dollars.

Two-way wings are often the hardest asset to acquire for teams in the modern NBA. With the growth Okoro has displayed he has a case that he could be one of the top names “available” as the Cavaliers could face heavy consequences as potential success this season, or do they feel this team is still steps away from contending for a title this season? If they decide to cash in on some of the players with heavier price tags, including Okoro potentially, or push all the chips in and find themselves in a position where they let talent walk for the chance at a title swing.

According to Scotto’s piece, it appears there would be interest in Okoro from the Knicks, Hawks, Pacers, Suns and Bucks. The reason being all these teams have been known to “have interest in acquiring a two-way wing”.

Will Okoro go anywhere at this deadline? Probably not. But it’s worth noting that his improvement, and his value going up, could make it harder to keep him long-term.