At a quick glance, it seems the Cleveland Cavaliers won’t be under much pressure for the coming season. However, there are some members of the Cavs who will have something to prove, including second-year guard Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman and newly-appointed head coach John Beilein.
The Cavs selected Sexton with the No. 8 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. In the early stages of his rookie season, the former Alabama standout struggled to find a rhythm. But as the season progressed, it became clear that he has lightning speed and an accurate shot from beyond the arc.
There were some experts who criticized Sexton’s passing prowess, claiming that he would be better suited as a shooting guard. Towards the end of his rookie season, however, his assist totals began to rise, and the naysayers began to change their tune a bit.
Sexton appeared in all 82 games with the Cavs last season (72 starts), racking up averages of 16.7 points on 43.0 percent shooting from the field (40.2 percent from beyond the arc), 3.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds in 31.8 minutes per outing.
Now entering his sophomore season of service in the NBA, Sexton will be looking to take a leap. He’ll be taking that leap with a new backcourt teammate, though, as the Cavs selected Darius Garland with the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft. Exactly how the two will fare on the court together remains to be seen. If Garland is deemed the starting point guard, Sexton would have more opportunities to display his shooting skills at the two-guard spot. It would also give the team a pair of capable ball handlers to penetrate towards the hoop in set or transition plays.
Some players might feel a certain way about their team drafting another prospect at the same position, but Sexton was actually happy when he learned that the Cavs had taken Garland in this year’s draft:
“I was very excited,” Sexton told cleveland.com earlier this summer. “You watch the NBA now and it’s more like a two-guard offense and coach, all he’s ever run is two-guard offense.
“Taking pressure off one another,” Sexton added, referring to one of the ways he can help Garland and vice versa. “Feeding off each other’s energy.”
Contrary to what some might think, there is no tension between Garland and Sexton. In fact, both players are excited to work together:
“I’m really excited,” Garland told cleveland.com. “Collin, he’s really good. I think I can help him and I think we can both combine to do some crazy things in Cleveland.”
The Cavs also picked up former Belmont Bruins wingman Dylan Windler in this year’s draft (26th overall). The interesting part about Cleveland’s selection of Windler is the fact that he and Cedi Osman play the same sort of position: a slashing wing.
Windler is known as a great shooter, and he might just give Osman, who’s entering a contract year, a run for his money at the small forward position. Cedi has become a fan favorite, but what if Windler shows out?
“I think I can really be a good three-and-D guy” Windler told Chris Dortch of NBA.com in April. “A guy that can knock down shots and defend multiple positions.
“I want to be more of a playmaker,” Windler added. “I want to be able to finish over length. Adding to my vertical leap can always help. I’ll be working on gaining more weight and muscle. There’s always room for growth in that regard.”
This leads us to the third member of the Cavs organization who is facing pressure in the coming season.
In the early days of this offseason, the Cavs hired John Beilein as their head coach. Beilein comes to Cleveland after 12 successful seasons with the University of Michigan.
Beilein, 66, is a legendary figure in the basketball-loving world. He’s the only active collegiate coach to have achieved 20-win seasons at four different levels (junior college, NCAA Division III, NCAA Division II, and NCAA Division I). And furthermore, he is one of only six Division I coaches with 700 or more career wins. However, this will be his first stint in the NBA. He’ll need to establish his culture, to be sure, but he’ll also need to make the difficult decisions with regards to Cleveland’s starting lineup.
Beilein has already hinted at the possibility of a Sexton-Garland frontcourt, but would he send Osman to the bench in favor of Windler? On the other hand, Osman could play well, which would likely leave Windler with less playing time.
Osman’s game took a step forward last season. The Turkish-born forward averaged 13.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 76 appearances (75 starts). However, if the Cavs don’t offer him a contract extension, he’ll become a restricted free agent after the 2019-20 season.
The Cavs finished the 2018-19 campaign with a disappointing 19-63 overall record. Hopefully, though, with Beilein’s legendary direction and an influx of young talent, the team will find its way back into contention.