Cleveland Cavaliers navigate perplexity through Collin Sexton’s free agency
My wife is a little bit of a hoarder. Not like the people with magazines from 1975 in their living room, but every time we change something in our house, she hangs on to whatever we replace so that we have old furniture parts and plant holders stacked up in various places. Every so often, she finds a way to use something she held onto for years, and she gives me a smug look like I should have known better than to question her. The Cleveland Cavaliers are doing a bit of hoarding right now for the same reasons.
Former lottery pick Collin Sexton was the origin point of their latest rebuild, and two years ago, he burst out averaging 24 points per game with reasonable efficiency — especially considering he was the only real offensive threat on the roster. Last year, Sexton tore his meniscus early in the season and the team magically seemed to gel without him.
Now, he’s a restricted free agent and the biggest role the Cavs can offer him will be as a bench scorer. Since Sexton got hurt, Isaac Okoro has a full season of starting under his belt, Caris LeVert arrived via trade, and the reigning Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Ochai Agbaji was drafted in the first round. Sexton’s other possible role, backup point guard, has been taken by Ricky Rubio. All of these guys are bigger than Sexton and more inclined to defend. That matters a lot when the point guard is 6-foot-1 Darius Garland.
Something else to consider is that the prototypes for Sexton’s upcoming role are Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford, but neither of them won the Sixth Man of the Year Award until they were pushing 30. It’s tough for a guy whose prime earning years are still in front of him to accept a gig that, for all its glory, is still a bench role and pays accordingly, as the Cavs’ rumored offers to Sexton have shown.
So why don’t the Cleveland Cavaliers just cut Collin Sexton loose?
That’s where the hoarding instinct comes in. Anyone who watched the Cleveland Cavaliers near the end of last season remembers Garland was constantly double-teamed, and nobody else on the floor could create any offense. If that happens again this year while Sexton is somewhere else putting up 25 points per game, that’s the kind of situation that makes a GM sweat a little. As noted before, the Cavs have a lot of options at guard, but Sexton is too good to just forget about — especially without getting anything in return. In the NBA, it’s always better to have one player too many than one too few.
Here’s one more thing: Kevin Love has one year left on his contract, and last year was the first time he played in sixty games since 2016. This could be a more well-rounded team if Lauri Markkanen eventually slides into Love’s role as the third big man and LeVert and/or Ogbaji gets a shot as the starting wing. If that happens, it suddenly gets a lot easier to imagine a real need for Sexton in the backcourt.
It’s hard to tell if the front office is thinking that far ahead, but given Love’s injury history, it’s a scenario they are likely preparing for.