Making extra passes more would pay off for Cavs’ Collin Sexton

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton looks to pass. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton looks to pass. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton was showing positive signs as a passer before the NBA season’s suspension, and making extra passes more would pay off for him.

I get it, and I don’t disagree. While he is always going to be a score-first player, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton does need to show more as a passer.

With the amount of instances Sexton’s had the ball in his hands, 3.0 assists per game through his first two seasons, especially with him playing the 1 his first year, even as a score-first player, hasn’t been ideal.

In year two, Sexton was playing mostly at the 2 with Darius Garland often playing the 1, but still, it’s not as if the opportunities didn’t come for Sexton.

On the plus side, Sexton did at least show some growth as 2019-20 progressed as a passer. In his last 16 games of this past season, Sexton had 4.3 assists per outing, per Basketball Reference.

2019-20 ended at 65 games for Cleveland, with the then-19-46 Cavs not being a team set to play in Orlando, with them having the league’s second-worst record and not being one of the top 22 clubs invited. It was nice to see Sexton show positive passing signs, though, and hopefully, that can carry forward.

That said, Sexton making extra passes more would pay off for him as a scorer and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Sexton firmly established himself as the Cavs’ top option for 2020-21, with him leading the team in scoring with 20.8 points per game in 2019-20. That was even with the inside-out talent of Kevin Love being active in 56 of 65 games.

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Furthermore, in the last 32 games of this past season, Sexton put up 23.6 points per game, fully leaning into the role as Cleveland’s top scoring threat. He hit 44.9 percent of his 4.9 three-point attempts per game in that stretch, too.

With the way he’s able to feast in the pull-up game, thanks in large part to changing speeds in year two, and factoring in his three-point shooting growth, floaters and his driving prowess, Sexton’s evenly distributed scoring makes him so tough to guard.

We get it; the Young Bull is such a dynamic scorer, and I don’t want that to be handicapped, realistically.

What would make him even more difficult to account for, though, would be Sexton even just making more extra passes going forward.

Sexton is not a player that has the passing vision of the likes of Garland, nor Kevin Porter Jr., really, but is was encouraging that he was making more kickouts on drives leading into the novel coronavirus-induced hiatus.

In that last 16-game stretch of which was previously mentioned, Sexton did have 4.3 assists per outing, and J.B. Bickerstaff taking over the head coaching reigns for Cleveland seemingly played into that, as did assistant coach Lindsay Gottlieb.

Granted, Garland missing what would be the Cleveland Cavaliers’ last five games with a left groin strain may have boosted that a bit, but Sexton was showing more willingness to dish out to shooters. That led to plenty of quality perimeter shooting looks for Love, Cedi Osman and Larry Nance Jr., who hit a career-best 35.2 percent of his three-point attempts in 2019-20.

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Most notably, a number of those instances throughout games were from Sexton recognizing help coming, and even when looks were often still there for pull-ups or floaters, he was hitting that extra pass to a much more open look to Osman/others.

If Sexton can feed the likes of Nance on cuts a bit more, along with Kevin Porter Jr. in that regard going forward, it’d only make him harder to account for as an all-around scorer.

I’m not expecting Sexton to ever be a pass-first player, really, and that’s perfectly fine. He’s such a gifted scorer, and I don’t want that ability to be held back.

If he just makes extra passes more consistently, though, it’d pay off for him and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

KJG’s Robbie DiPaola suggested a goal of 4.0 assists per game for Sexton in 2020-21, and if Sexton hits open shooters/cutters more even with just extra/”one-more” passes, as lacrosse players would say, Sexton could very well hit that goal.

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The Cavs as a team would benefit, too.