Updated: Sep 28, 2022
Photo: David Dermer/USA TODAY Sports
The upcoming 2022-2023 Cavs season is easily the most anticipated Cavs season in the last half decade. With the 2016 NBA Championship and LeBron James in the rearview mirror, and with the teams’ young nucleus assembled, the sky's the limit for one of the youngest teams in the entire National Basketball Association.
From 2018-2021, President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman drafted Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro and Evan Mobley in consecutive drafts, all within the Top 5. Garland and Mobley are viewed alongside Jarrett Allen as two of the top three players on the roster, and Sexton has been a contributor for the team when he’s on the floor, even if the team didn’t earn a ton of victories over the first three seasons of his career. The one guy who could be seen as a miss by Altman is Okoro, hence the reason why the pressure is on the former Auburn guard to produce this upcoming season.
When he was drafted No. 5 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, the current 6’5, 225 pound Okoro wasn’t seen as a natural scorer. He was a slasher who needed work on his shot, but he was an NBA-ready defender from day one. He was seen as a guy who could be worth a Top 5 pick if his offensive game improved.
Unfortunately for both the Cavs and Okoro, his offensive improvement hasn’t come to fruition yet. In his first two seasons, Okoro has averaged only nine points a contest on 45% from the field, including 32% from the 3-point line. There were many times, especially late last season, where defenses would leave Okoro open in the corner to shoot the three ball, but the ball would not land in the basket.
The biggest weakness currently on the Cavs roster is a guy who can create his own shot and score the basketball when Garland is not on the court. If Okoro wants to be a Cavalier for the foreseeable future, he’s going to have to consistently knock down jumpers. With Caris LeVert chomping to prove his struggles last year in a Wine and Gold uniform was a fluke, and 2022 first-round selection Ochai Agbaji looking to make an impact as a knockdown shooter, Okoro’s time in Cleveland may be up if he doesn’t consistently make defenses guard him on the wing.
In today’s NBA, most players, especially wings, have to be able to score the ball. Defense is important, but the shooting talent in today’s game can beat great defenders.
Going into his third season in his career, Okoro hasn’t shown enough improvement to prove he can be a starting NBA player on a consistent basis. With the Cavs in win-now mode, Okoro will be seen as a trade candidate if the Cavs feel he isn’t improving, and they can upgrade the team. Being on a rookie deal and being a former Top 5 draft pick also makes the 21-year-old attractive to a team that believes they could unlock his potential.
There’s many players on the Cavs who are exciting to watch, but their may not be a player on the Cavs under more pressure to start next season than No. 35.
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