Cavs: J.B. Bickerstaff hits on Isaac Okoro’s playmaking potential

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff talks with Cleveland wing Isaac Okoro in-game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff talks with Cleveland wing Isaac Okoro in-game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Isaac Okoro is far from a finished product offensively, as he needs to improve his handle, make strides to be viable as a catch-and-shoot threat and needs to show pull-up ability for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On the season, Okoro has averaged 9.3 points in 32.3 minutes of playing time. From a playmaking/secondary playmaking standpoint, that’s not been the healthiest clip, either.

Okoro’s had 2.0 assists per-36 minutes, and an assist rate of 8.3 percent. His turnover rate hasn’t been high at 10.4 percent, albeit we haven’t seen a ton of playmaking work from Okoro and his lack of pull-up viability hasn’t aided him in that realm.

There have been plenty of flashes on the offensive end from Okoro this season, though, and with Cleveland so thin in recent games because of a grocery list of injuries, and with Darius Garland sidelined, Okoro has had a bigger role.

Now, to be fair, the Cavs have lost 11 straight games, and Okoro nearly having the usage/workload he’s had in the past five or six games or so isn’t a normal thing likely, but there have been a number of positive signs post-All-Star.

He’s been getting to the free line a bunch too, and on the year, has had a free throw rate of 28.2 percent, which has been a plus.

The playmaking feel was shown some at Auburn in his lone collegiate season as well, and as this season has progressed, there’s been some growth shown in that realm also.

And after Okoro had his first career double-double in Cleveland’s L to the Indiana Pacers with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and had four assists, Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff seemingly expressed how Okoro has promising playmaking potential.

Bickerstaff, via Bally Sports Cleveland, stressed how Okoro is showing lately how he believes Isaac “has the ability to make people better.” That was some in relation to when he’s getting downhill as a driver, too.

This was nice to hear regarding Okoro’s offensive potential.

Okoro is not a guy that we’ve seen have a considerable playmaking workload, even via the secondary playmaking/tertiary playmaking variety. That’s not been surprising in Year 1, with the likes of Garland, to some extent Collin Sexton and even Cedi Osman to a degree, for example.

It’s again apparent that moving forward, and I believe a full offseason should pay dividends for him in this way, but the handle for him needs to improve to maximize his driving abilities. The same goes for him in relation to at least some mid-range/pull-up viability.

All of that said, Okoro has shown some feel, particularly as the season has progressed, in ability to hit skip feeds to shooters, and generally speaking, if there’s a logical hockey assist/extra pass to be made, he’ll see it. Those are things to build on.

And with his 225-pound frame/strength to get in the paint/near the rim/generate free throws, it could lead to more of a playmaking presence for him with the likes of Garland, Sexton and others, such as Dean Wade on the floor with him.

The willingness is definitely there for Okoro as a passer/secondary playmaking presence, and the intent to hit meaningful passes has led to more positive signs from him recently.

We have seen some pick-and-roll playmaking from him of late, too, and as Bickerstaff alluded to above, Okoro is showing encouraging signs in that realm. In his career-best 32-point game last Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns, he tied a career-high with six assists in that one as well, and in recent games, has hit some nice interior feeds.

Anyhow, while I’m not expecting Okoro to be a point forward-type player, he is a high IQ player that does look out for logical extra passes to shooters, and if the shot/handle improves, maybe we’ll see more pick-and-roll creation/playmaking opportunities for him.

That handle and pull-up/floater game are clear points of emphasis for him to maximize PnR creation potential, though, objectively.

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But as the year has wound down, we’re seeing more confidence from Okoro as he’s taken on more of an on-ball role, and with that, it’s enabled him to take some momentum into the upcoming offseason. And let’s also factor in the kid is just 20, folks.