The Cleveland Cavaliers should take Auburn wing Isaac Okoro with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Okoro is a fascinating player and talent who would be phenomenal for head coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotation.
Two things stand out with Okoro: speed and defense. He flies across the floor and has the electricity to run past his cover and finish with style off the dribble. Speed is a catalyst for his well-rounded defensive skill set. Whether it be defending in isolation or staggering a team’s offense out on the perimeter, the Auburn product is tenacious on that end of the floor.
Okoro averaged 12.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc in his freshman season. While such averages and efficiency leave a little to be desired, the wing has the peripheral upside to be more productive at the NBA level.
Yes, he was inefficient from distance. At the same time, he has a smooth shooting stroke that could lead to him being more of a shooting threat at the next level.
Okoro has upside.
Being the fifth pick in the draft is already justifiable for what he brings to the table. In time, he could be as impactful as any player in this draft class. The positives he has going for him are ones that can be bedrock elements for something far greater, that being a stellar two-way stalwart.
Okoro has a skill set that the Cavs don’t possess.
Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, the team’s previous two first-round draft picks, have ball-dominant, scoring tendencies. Sexton averaged 20.8 points per game while shooting 38.0 percent from beyond the arc last season; Garland is a quick scorer with a capable outside jump shot. These two are the heart and soul of this offense moving forward, and understandably so.
Cedi Osman is a reliable defender with a considerable outside game, Larry Nance Jr. is an athletic frontline scorer, and Kevin Porter Jr. flashed signs of being a capable NBA scorer in his rookie season. Meanwhile, tenured big men Andre Drummond and Kevin Love remain in place.
None of the aforementioned players are defensive stompers who primarily attack the rack. Okoro is precisely as such.
Okoro would complement Cleveland’s foundation. He would primarily play off the ball in his rookie season, allowing Sexton and Garland to run the show. This opens the door for the Cavs to put an onus on improving Okoro’s jump shot, which would come in handy for a team that was 26th in the NBA in points per game (106.9) and 20th in 3-point shooting percentage (35.1 percent) last season.
Garland’s efficiency should improve with playing time, and both Porter and Okoro have capable jumpers; Cleveland’s outside shooting should be better next season. The Cavs were also 22nd in the NBA in opponent points per game (114.8) and 26th in opponent 3-point shooting percentage (37.5 percent). Okoro can help turn the tide.
Okoro can play to his strengths with the Cavs. A year from now, he’d likely be their at-best third source of offense. He can improve as a shooter and scorer, giving Cleveland more productive offensive speed.
So much of the NBA is fit. If the pieces fit, you can win a lot of games and go on a deep playoff run. Continuity is another comparable aspect of the sport. If players have extensive experience playing with each other, they know their teammates’ tendencies, can feed off each other, and are more likely to be on the same page. The Denver Nuggets, who reached the Western Conference Finals and overcame two 3-1 series leads to get there this postseason, are a prime example.
A considerable chunk of Bickerstaff’s roster was either drafted or has been with the Cavs for several seasons. Recently, they’ve built their foundation through the draft, and they have the opportunity to continue doing as such in a couple weeks.
At some point, the Cavs need to turn a corner. They’ve finished with one of the three worst records in the NBA in each of the last two seasons. To add fuel to the fire, there are a handful of rebuilding teams in the Eastern Conference who are either a step ahead or have shown more promise than the Cavs such as the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, and New York Knicks.
Talent isn’t the issue for this team; there’s plenty of that. They need their young core plus the addition of their draft pick, theoretically Okoro, to begin humming offensively and putting up a fight defensively.
Isaac Okoro checks all the boxes for the Cavs. He has a tantalizing skill set their rotation doesn’t posses, he has upside, and he doesn’t get in the way of their young building blocks and veteran big men.
His skill set, potential, and fit in their system is too good for the Cavs to pass up.