The Cleveland Cavaliers hadn’t had a winning season without LeBron James since 1997-98, but that changed this year when they finished 44-38. The resurgent campaign didn’t end the way they likely hoped after their NBA Play-In Tournament loss to the Atlanta Hawks, but the Cavs have a bright future ahead.
The most surprising factor of their 2021-22 success was that most of it came without their top scorer from the previous two years, Collin Sexton. The fourth-year guard suffered a knee injury early in the season, and his absence allowed Darius Garland to blossom into a star. However, it also made his own future uncertain. Do the Cavs really need Sexton if they can win when he’s not in the lineup? Or would they have been even better this year had he been healthy?
As Cleveland heads into the 2022 offseason, the team may have just revealed its plans for Sexton’s future.
Koby Altman addressed Collin Sexton’s future with the Cavaliers
Collin Sexton has expressed his desire to stay with the Cavs. However, he and the team didn’t agree to a contract extension last offseason, so he will soon become a restricted free agent.
Cleveland can match any offer sheet Sexton receives, or it can let him walk and look to build around its core pieces of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley with other players.
“He’s enormously important to us, he’s been enormously important to us,” Cavs president of basketball operations Koby Altman said in his end-of-the-year press conference, per the team’s YouTube. “To lose him, you can see throughout the year why we missed him or how we missed him. So, we owe Collin a great debt of gratitude for what he’s done, the work he’s put in and he continues to put in. An important part of his team.”
Another factor in play is Caris LeVert. The Cavaliers traded for the guard before the NBA Trade Deadline, and he and Sexton play the same position. They’re also ball-dominant players, so it’s easy to wonder if they can coexist.
It appears that Altman and the front office want to give it a shot.
“They play the right way, they want to win,” Altman said. “… It wasn’t like, ‘We were OK when Collin went down.’ Well, I wish we had Collin those last 26 games when we were struggling. He hasn’t had a chance, and he deserves the chance to play with this group as a whole and play winning meaningful basketball.”
That sounds like someone who wants Sexton to stick around.
Collin Sexton gives the Cavs another scoring option
If the Cavs, indeed, keep Collin Sexton, he will give them another scoring option along the perimeter, something they lacked at times once he went down.
Sexton averaged 24.3 points on 47.5% shooting in 2020-21, and he made 37.1% of his three-pointers. Given Darius Garland’s increased role within Cleveland’s offense, Sexton will likely have the ball in his hands a lot less next year. Garland has developed into one of the league’s premier point guards, so Sexton will have to play off the ball. But his ability to get a bucket whenever he wants could be crucial for a Cavs squad that ranked 25th in points per game (107.8).
So, what will Cleveland’s lineup look like if Sexton remains with the team?
Probably something close to this.
PG: Darius Garland (21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game)
SG: Collin Sexton (24.3 points and 4.4 assists per game in 2020-21)
SF: Lauri Markkanen (14.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game)
PF: Evan Mobley (15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game)
C: Jarrett Allen (16.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game)
Bench: Caris LeVert (17.0 points and 4.3 assists per game with the Pacers and Cavs), Isaac Okoro (8.8 points per game), Kevin Love (13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game), Cedi Osman (10.7 points per game)
The Cavaliers also have a lottery pick this year and can add some other pieces in free agency. So, this could look slightly different once the season starts, but this certainly isn’t too shabby.
Cleveland has a chance to make some serious noise in 2022-23.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference