Despite the abysmal play from the Cavaliers currently, the team (and fans) should be reveling in the fact that they’ve got the makings of a fantastic young core. PG Collin Sexton and C Jarrett Allen are just 22-years-old, but they’ve looked like cornerstone pieces in a franchise that’s rebuilding. Collin has shown his ability and most importantly the willingness to take over games when the team needs him to and although he’s had questionable moments during the season, for the most part, he’s been a consistent force on the offensive end averaging 23 points-per-game along with just over four assists. As the teams’ starting shooting guard, those are numbers that you’d expect, especially when you factor in his shooting percentage, which is currently hovering around 50% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc.
While his backcourt mate certainly has many unanswered questions surrounding him, it’s become apparent rather quickly that Jarrett Allen is, without a doubt, a centerpiece moving forward. In the loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Allen posted 26 points, 17 rebounds, all without missing a shot, going 11-for-11 from the field. As each game comes to an end, no matter the outcome, it’s clear that Allen is getting better. He’s becoming more comfortable with his teammates and has seemingly embraced his role as the future of this Cavaliers team. There’s no reason to believe that Allen cannot put up those sorts of numbers regularly.
The other young guys on the roster, namely SF Isaac Okoro and SG Darius Garland, still have much to improve. Garland has shown flashes of what he can do, but he’s not been the most consistent player. As it stands, I believe that once the Cavaliers find a wing that can run with Sexton and Allen that’s when we’ll see the best of Garland’s game. He works much better when he’s surrounded by players who can handle the load offensively and right now he’s being relied on to contribute in a way that doesn’t fit his game. The same can be said for Okoro. The Cavs drafted him, not for his offensive abilities, but for what he would bring to the team defensively. With the number of injuries the Cavaliers have had, plus the fact that he’s been “thrown to the wolves” and forced to defend teams’ best player night in and out, his play has stalled. Oftentimes he appears to be lost not only offensively, but now defensively as well.
For the Cavaliers to truly count on both Garland and Okoro the way they think they should be able to, they need to do their best to use their assets to bring in either a small forward or a power forward (not named Kevin Love.) This particular player needs to be able to handle himself offensively to make up for the deficiencies of Okoro, but he also needs to able to handle his own defensively to help round out the frontcourt. The only problem with that is Kevin Love. If the Cavs don’t trade him but bring in a power forward that’s better suited to start with the likes of Garland, Allen, Okoro, and Sexton you can’t sit Love the way they’re doing Andre Drummond because he has no real trade value. It’s very likely the reason they didn’t draft Obi Toppin is that they didn’t want to bring him off the bench behind Love or vice versa.
As it stands, the Cavaliers need to figure out what they’re doing with Kevin Love. If they’re keeping him, they’ve got to bite the bullet and draft a small forward next season because, right now, Okoro isn’t cutting it. He’s a rookie, so I’ve not given up on him, but it’s easy to tell that he’s not playing within his game. Sexton and Allen need help offensively and they just aren’t getting it consistently. Once Nance and Prince come back, that should take some pressure off of guys like Cedi and Okoro, freeing up their games, but even so, there’s no real sense of consistency. It may feel like I’ve driven that word into the ground, but that is an enormous issue with this team.
Sexton, Allen, Garland, and Okoro are the future of this team, but their roles will vary drastically. Once the organization finds a third guy, a young, athletic and offensively gifted guy, to share the majority of the burden with Sexton and Allen, that’s when we’ll see what these young men can do. The team is close and that’s something to be excited about. It may be hard with the way they’re currently playing, but fans have to remember that the next year or two will be bad and flashes of who this team can be will make losing sting even more. The team is playing in the now, but they’re playing for the future.