Collin Sexton was a can’t-miss prospect that the Cleveland Cavaliers were eyeing to help the franchise regain a top-flight point guard after they shipped Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics in 2017. But reality hit the Cavs hard when they soon realized that their prized rookie was far from the player that Irving was even during the former Cavalier’s rookie season.
Coming into the league, Sexton was considered one of the fastest players to enter the 2019 NBA Draft. His speed and quickness are undeniable as he is routinely a blur to his opponents whenever he attacks the basket. Early in the season, however, he couldn’t get a good shot as he was adjusting to bigger and better players compared to his collegiate opponents.
By the time March rolled around, the Cavs’ playmaker suddenly turned the corner and had one of the best stretches of any rookie. This eventually led to Sexton’s selection to the 2018-19 NBA All-Rookie Second Team. His late-season surge may be a preview of the kind of player he could be in the future. As a scorer, at least.
As a winner, that’s another story.
He has much to learn to reach his potential as possibly one of the top point guards in the game. The 20-year old, incoming sophomore has plenty of work to do this summer.
Here are three things that Sexton absolutely must improve on in the offseason to become an elite point guard:
3. Shooting efficiency
Sexton had a 43.0 percent shooting percentage for the season and shot the ball well from 3-point range with a 40.2 percent shooting accuracy which is better than seven of the top 10 players in 3-pointers made. In truth, however, he can do better in terms of his overall efficiency.
Consider the following:
He had four games with lower than 20 percent shooting from the field, 16 games shooting below 30 percent, and 30 games in which he shot less than 40 percent. Making the distinction between a bad shot and a good shot is the first step, something that he improved on as the season progressed. In the offseason, Sexton needs to hire a shooting coach who will teach him the subtle nuances of the game particularly in the area of shot-making.
The defensive end of the court is a tricky one for first-year players especially when they are 6-foot-2 or shorter. Young Bull hasn’t fully grasped how to play both ends of the court well and that’s mostly because of a lack of maturity.
He is often lost when he has to guard someone on pick-and-rolls and will routinely get caught missing an assignment or not making the right decision on which players to guard and which ones he can leave open.
Though he does seem like he has the ability to be a disruptive player on defense ala Allen Iverson before him. He needs a crash course on reading passing lanes, how to strip the ball from another player without fouling them and how to exploit mismatches.
1. Making teammates better
If not for a late-season surge, Sexton would have had the worst season in modern NBA history with a Real Plus-Minus rating that was almost dead last in the entire league. He was saved only by Jerryd Bayless who ranked 102nd among all point guards to Sexton’s 101st.
During a 17-game stretch from March to April, Sexton suddenly played like a seasoned veteran. For seven straight games, he scored 23 points or more to become the first rookie since Tim Duncan in 1998 to accomplish the feat.
As lofty an achievement as that was, the Cavs only won three of those 17 games.
That means Sexton has to work on becoming a leader. In 11 of those games, he only dished off three assists or less, including four games in which he only had one assist. While you could expect that kind of low production from your center or shooting guard, that is unbecoming behavior from a point guard even though he lacks experience. Some of the game’s most prolific scorers assisted on more baskets than he did this past season.
This is one area in which the University of Alabama alum can’t work on by himself in a gym. He has to play competitively in the summer and seek out a retired player who can coach him into seeing the floor with a playmaker’s eyes. Among his points for improvement, it is this aspect which the Cavaliers will welcome the most as it translates to team success more often than not.