Cavs: 3 key things to be thankful for heading into 2020-21

Auburn Tigers forward Isaac Okoro reacts with teammates after a win. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Auburn Tigers forward Isaac Okoro reacts with teammates after a win. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
Mason Jones #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks goes up for a shot in the second half and has it blocked by Isaac Okoro #23 and Anfernee McLemore #24 of the Auburn Tigers. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

A few things jump out regarding what Cleveland Cavaliers fans should be thankful for heading into 2020-21.

It’s been so long since the Cleveland Cavaliers last appeared in game action, as the squad last played on March 10, in what was a close loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Shortly thereafter, the NBA’s past season went into a novel coronavirus-induced hiatus, and the 2019-20 campaign would ultimately end for the Cavs with them not being an Orlando area bubble team.

Fortunately, the Wine and Gold’s long layoff is set to end with the 2020-21 season around the corner, as next season is set to tipoff for the NBA on Dec. 22. That’s quite a relief, too, as it’s been what’s felt like an eternity since the Cavs last appeared in game action.

So, along those lines, here, with Thursday being Thanksgiving, I figured it’d be relevant to touch on the few things I’m most thankful for when it comes to 2020/the upcoming season for Cleveland. There were clearly some aspects to the upcoming season that I’m not going to get into as much, but in this sense, we’ll prioritize recent roster additions/how they can help the Cavs.

We’ll get right into those, with three jumping out to me for the Cavs in 2020.

The first one has to do with the 2020 NBA Draft, and Cleveland’s selection of Isaac Okoro.

#1: Okoro’s defensive abilities

Regarding 2020 for the Cavs/the upcoming 2020-21 season, in terms of things that really jump out heading into the year/more along the lines of additions, I’m probably most thankful for Okoro’s defensive abilities.

This was a really good recent draft selection by Cleveland because of Okoro’s high level on-ball defense against opposing wings. He’s so good when it comes to shutting off driving lanes, preventing pull-ups, staying on his primary assignments in pick-and-roll coverage and in the general sense, his play on that end will be a welcomed addition.

Okoro placed in the 90th percentile in one-on-one defensive situations in his lone collegiate season at Auburn, per Synergy Sports. And to me, his on-ball play there could lead to him taking over at Cleveland’s starting 3 spot even pretty early on in replacement of Cedi Osman, whose struggled mightily defensively the past two seasons in that starting 3 role.

In terms of team defense, Okoro is a very active rotator, too, contests shooters well, and got his share of blocks as a helper at Auburn. He had a healthy block rate of 3.1 percent in 2019-20, and his instincts as a rotator should aid the likes of Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr., for instance, in his minutes-share.

Offensively, Okoro, who hit only 28.6 percent of his three-point attempts at Auburn, does have a ways to go as a shooter, though. But he’s an elite finisher, times his cuts really well and is a willing and able pick-and-roll passer, so I’d again expect him to be the Cavs’ starting 3 pretty early on.

Albeit his defensive abilities are the thing I’m most thankful for as a Cavaliers fan, all things considered, more so about what’s changed since Cleveland’s last game action, heading into 2020-21.

Next up, we’ll move on to another key thing I’m looking forward to seeing next season/how that should aid Cleveland’s offense.