3 Cavs who must step up with Ricky Rubio joining Collin Sexton on shelf
The Cleveland Cavaliers are having an impressive start to the season as they are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 20-15 record. Collin Sexton already sustained a season-ending injury earlier in the season. But the injury luck got even worse as Ricky Rubio incurred another massive blow to the Cavaliers season with a torn ACL injury sustained against the New Orleans Pelicans. Unfortunately, this is Rubio’s second ACL tear in his left knee for his career.
With the lack of backcourt depth in Cleveland, they must find other individuals to step up in their absence or acquire new faces in their organization. The Cavaliers are in serious talks to receive Rajon Rondo from the Los Angeles Lakers, which would provide a massive boost to supplement the ball handling duties with Darius Garland. Even before having Rondo on their squad, there are still a few current players that must increase their production for Cleveland to continue their success.
As the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Isaac Okoro has not lived up to that billing at the early juncture of his career. As he continues to be on the first unit, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff still has utmost trust on him to eventually find his rhythm and continue being a force on both ends. Despite his athleticism and versatility, Okoro has still failed to find his footing in the NBA.
Without Sexton and Rubio, he may need to absorb some of the playmaking responsibilities that are heavily undermanned with their guards. Okoro has shown flashes of brilliance already as he tallied 16-20 points in a four-game stretch this season before he entered health and safety protocols. Moreover, Okoro played over 30 minutes in each of the last 10 games last season as he recorded double figure points in nine out of the 10 games, highlighted by a 32-point outing against the Phoenix Suns.
Cedi Osman is another wing for the Cavs that has been impressive this season. His long range prowess and scoring abilities have been used as the catalyst in the second unit as he has scored over 20 points on four different instances this season. He has not started any game yet this year, but he may need to increase his workload and minutes in a bench role as they will miss Sexton and Rubio for the rest of the season.
Osman cannot be expected to have similar numbers to Rubio in terms of the facilitating aspect, but he can bring a different look to the Cavs lineups. Osman could be more consistent with his primary asset in converting more outside shots, which would make the job of the point guard easier. Additionally, the skill of Osman to open up the floor gives more opportunities for Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to dominate the paint even more than usual.
Garland is the natural answer to state for the next man up mentality, but it would be difficult for this man to even raise his numbers even more. He is already in the midst of a career-year where he is currently averaging 19.5 points and 7.3 assists on shooting splits of 47.9%/38.4%/90.5%. Garland could possibly be selected to his first All-Star game appearance, which would be a remarkable accomplishment for a Cavs representative to be present in the game at Cleveland.
Garland is already playing 34.2 minutes per game on a usage percentage of 25.9%. These two numbers will definitely increase, but the more important facet is the backup and complementary parts around Garland. Defenses would formulate their game plan to force Garland to give up the ball and force others to create offense for their team. Thus, it would be integral to find secondary ball handlers that would lessen the load on Garland.
With numerous experienced teams just on the tails of Cleveland, they must search for solutions to their problems instantly. Many of their core players have been in-and-out of the lineup as well due to health and safety protocols and injuries, but they must sustain their early-season success if they want to hold off the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Atlanta Hawks.
These three aforementioned have reached the playoffs with the current core of their lineups already, but the Cavs are one organization that has yet to prove themselves at that stage since the departure of LeBron James. Even with a depleted roster, this is still the chance for Cleveland to leave their mark for the following years as they continue being a constant legitimate playoff threat.