With four games remaining in the 2018-2019 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are nearing the completion of their tank job. As long as the Cavs finish with one of the three worst records in the NBA, the season will have been a success, but it hasn’t been easy for the fanbase. Kevin Love’s early-season injury ruined any chance of Cleveland having an All-Star representative for the first time since 2011-2012, but they can still have a player earn a prestigious distinction. Despite a very difficult first half of the season, rookie point guard Collin Sexton deserves to make the All-Rookie First Team.
Sexton’s performance prior to the All-Star game was so rough that he wasn’t even selected for the Rising Stars Challenge. In 58 games (48 starts) before the break, Sexton averaged 15.1 points while shooting 41% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc.
It was clear that Sexton could score well, but his shot selection was poor and he did not display good passing vision. He was far too reliant upon his mid-range jumpshot, often passing up three-point attempts for a pump fake, one dribble toward the basket, and a very deep two-pointer.
While Sexton was just a 20-year-old rookie, it was still worrying to watch him put up inefficient numbers without showing improvement. That changed after the All-Star break, as in the 20 games since, Sexton has put up 20.9 points on 48% and 43% shooting, respectively. Sexton is now taking more than double the amount of triples as he was early in the season, and he seems to finally have developed confidence in his shot from deep.
It’s good that he’s shooting better now, but what’s better is that he’s being much smarter about where he chooses to shoot from. He isn’t anywhere close to a finished product, as he is still not passing enough to be considered a true floor general, but it’s very encouraging to see that he can be a good all-around scorer, not just a threat from the mid-range.
Sexton’s drastic offensive improvement is his argument for All-Rookie First Team. The 2018 Draft class as a whole has been very solid, so Sexton has some pretty good competition for one of the five spots.
The lineup isn’t chosen by position, which sort of works against Sexton here. If there were two guards, two forwards, and one center, he would be the obvious choice for one of the guard spots with Atlanta’s Trae Young occupying the other. But the spots are chosen only by best players, regardless of position.
Here’s how Sexton stacks up against the other contenders.
PG Collin Sexton – 78 games, 16.6 points, 2.8 assists, 3.0 rebounds, FG 43%, 3PT 41%
PG Trae Young – 78 games, 18.9 points, 8.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds, FG 42%, 3PT 33%
SF Luka Doncic – 70 games, 21.1 points, 5.9 assists, 7.6 rebounds, FG 43%, 3PT 33%
PF Marvin Bagley III – 58 games, 14.8 points, 1.0 assists, 7.4 rebounds, FG 51%, 3PT 31%
PF Jaren Jackson Jr. – 58 games, 13.8 points, 1.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds, FG 51%, 3PT 36%
C Deandre Ayton – 71 games, 16.3 points, 1.8 assists, 10.3 rebounds, FG 59%, 3PT N/A
Stat-wise, Young, Doncic, and Ayton are locks for the first team. That leaves Sexton, Bagley, and Jackson to fight over the final two spots.
Not only does Sexton have the advantage in points per game, assists per game, and 3PT%, but he has also played 20 more games. Bagley is also not a starter, as he has come off the bench for all but three games this season. Jackson’s range is better than Bagley’s, but he also doesn’t have as many rebounds, which, as both players are power forwards, should give Bagley the nod over Jackson.
The final team should look like this:
G – Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
G – Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers
F – Luke Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
F – Marvin Bagley III – Sacramento Kings
C – Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
It’s almost hard to believe because of how much Sexton struggled early on, but he is clearly deserving of a spot on the All-Rookie First Team. He still has much about his game to fix, and perhaps he will never be the leader of this team, deferring to R.J. Barrett, Ja Morant, or ideally Zion Williamson, but Sexton is also just 20 years old. He has plenty of time to improve just like he has this year, and at the very least, the Cavaliers have found a good scorer with the eighth overall pick from 2018. That’s not bad value at all.
Sexton being selected to the All-Rookie First Team would be a great accolade for him, but it would also be good for the fanbase to have something to hang their hats on from this season. It wouldn’t boost morale as much as landing the first overall pick (fingers crossed), but it would be a start.
Despite a poor start, Sexton has earned himself a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team, and that’s something to feel good about.