At 16-48, the Cleveland Cavaliers currently own the third-worst record in the NBA, giving them a 14% chance at landing the first overall pick. Zion Williamson is obviously the dream, but if the Cavs aren’t picking at #1, they would do well to think long and hard about taking Murray State point guard Ja Morant.
With 2018 eighth overall pick Collin Sexton already on the roster, a question of fit arises if Morant is the pick. There are two main ways the two can coexist, and which route the team goes depends on how Sexton develops.
We first need to determine whether or not Sexton should be the starting point guard for this team moving forward. Sexton has the quickness to score at a high level in the NBA. His finishing ability needs work, but that will come with experience. His three-point shooting was supposedly the biggest problem with his game, but while he’s only attempting 2.9 triples per game, he’s knocking them down at a 38% rate. In his lone season at Alabama, Sexton shot 34% on four attempts from beyond the arc. This improvement is encouraging for his future as a scorer.
What is not encouraging is his defense and passing. Sexton was an excellent defender in college, and while he gives very good effort, his size is a major hindrance to his effectiveness on defense. He is listed at 6’2″ but is in all likelihood closer to 6′. He can certainly improve his technique, but his height is something that will always limit his defensive ability.
What is even more concerning than his defense is his playmaking. Sexton is the team’s starting point guard and plays 30.6 minutes per game, yet averages only 2.8 assists. That is a big problem, and there is no reason why Sexton should rank third on the team in assists behind Larry Nance Jr., a power forward, and Matthew Dellavedova, who plays fewer than 20 minutes a night. Things would look better if Sexton was gradually improving in this area, but he isn’t. Over the past four games, he has a total of six assists, with three coming against the New York Knicks.
There are some who would point to the poor rookie seasons of Kemba Walker and De’Aaron Fox as reasons to be optimistic for Sexton’s future. While there are some similarities, and no one is giving up on Sexton yet, Walker and Fox each averaged 4.4 assists per game during their inaugural campaigns, a big difference from Sexton’s 2.9.
Additionally, neither Walker nor Fox had an All-Star like Kevin Love to feed the ball to. Sexton’s poor playmaking may indicate that he would be better server to play shooting guard, but his stature prevents him from switching positions.
If the Cavaliers draft Morant, he should immediately become the starting PG. He is slight at 175lbs, but his 6’3″ frame gives him room to fill out and he has the height to play solid defense in the NBA. He averages 24.1 points per game on 50% shooting, 10.3 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. He is the definition of an all-around point guard, with his biggest weakness, like Sexton, being three-point shooting. Morant’s passing ability would make him a much better fit with Love and the rest of the team, as ball movement is vital to how this group needs to play in order to be competitive.
With Morant entrenched as the starter, Sexton would move to the bench, where he would take over Jordan Clarkson’s role as sixth man. Like Sexton, Clarkson is a good scorer, but his passing, defense, and three-point shooting leave much to be desired. Clarkson should be traded at next year’s deadline, and his top-tier bench production and $13.5 million expiring contract should make him an attractive target for contending teams.
In this role, Sexton could be the primary ball handler and take 15 shots per game without worrying about stagnating the ball movement of the starting unit. While a bench role for an eighth overall pick and the jewel of the Kyrie Irving trade would be rather disappointing, based on the history of the eighth pick, it would not be a bad situation at all. Clarkson’s 17 points per game are valuable, and if Sexton can replicate that production with Morant developing into an All-Star, the Cavs should be very happy.
So how would a Ja Morant and Collin Sexton backcourt function? Well, it wouldn’t, at least not at the same time. There would certainly be situations where Morant and Sexton could share the floor, especially if they can improve their catch-and-shoot three-point percentage, but they would have different primary roles. Even though Sexton would be moved to the bench, Cleveland should not let that deter them from taking Morant, as the 19-year-old would be an excellent player to re-build around.