Cleveland Cavaliers: Should Isaac Okoro make one of All-Rookie teams?

Cleveland Cavaliers wing Isaac Okoro drives. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers wing Isaac Okoro drives. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Cavaliers wing Isaac Okoro has possibly been one of the most scrutinized picks from the 2020 NBA Draft. For as much as he was sought after for his highly-touted defensive skill set, he was considered at best, raw on the offensive end.

The thought was and quite frankly still is, that he would need time to develop on that side of the ball in order to live up to being drafted so high.

Expectations for Okoro entering the season appeared to be low as it was thought that he would be eased into his role but that changed almost as soon as he hit the hardwood at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. It became clear from the first game of this season that Okoro would be thrust into the proverbial fires of the NBA as he is routinely assigned the challenge of defending the opposing team’s best perimeter player.

Perhaps none more daunting than having to defend the cyborg that is LeBron James in an early season matchup against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Although it resulted in a 115-108 loss, Okoro did his best to stay in front of the 4x MVP. Quite the tall task to ask of a rookie not even a month into his career.

This has left me pondering one question as the 2020-2021 NBA season draws to a close. Has Isaac Okoro done enough to warrant a coveted spot on either All-Rookie Team?

In the most recent KIA Rookie Ladder from Steve Aschburner of, Okoro is listed at number 10 in regards to potential Rookie of the Year candidates. If the All-Rookie teams were strictly based on a 1-10 best player format, he would be the last player in.

If you were to ask me that at the halfway point of the season for the Cavs/the league, I would most likely tell you that Okoro didn’t have a realistic chance at making the cut.

Pre All-Star break, a span of time consisting of 31 games, Okoro averaged a mere 8.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists. Not exactly encouraging numbers for a top five pick averaging 33.2 minutes a game up to that point.

Post All-Star break, the rook has scored at a rate of 10.6 points per game, adding 3.4 rebounds and is still dishing out just 1.9 assists. What’s more? Okoro is having a great month of May as through seven games, he is posting about 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

“Ice,” as he is often referred to, showcased exactly what he is capable of in a May 4 matchup against the Phoenix Suns (currently the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference) in which he exploded for a career-high 32 points while defending two of the game’s best in Chris Paul and Devin Booker.

He did a bit of everything offensively as he hit 10-of-16 of his field goal attempts and shot three-of-four from three-point range while also going nine-of-nine from the free throw line.

This game alone shouldn’t put Okoro on an All-Rookie team, however, his value to the Cavs can’t be overstated. A team sporting two undersized guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland absolutely needs a wing who can cover any defensive deficiencies that those two may have.

Okoro has done nothing but make their jobs easier while sharing the court as he utilizes so much of his time defending tougher defensive assignments which can exert a massive amount of energy.

That could be the primary reason Okoro isn’t averaging more points per game on the season, but with the mounting injures to the Cleveland-based team, he has seen an uptick in his opportunities. He’s averaging 13.0 field goal attempts per game thus far this month and has filled in at shooting guard at times which has resulted in an possibly the best version of Okoro that we have seen to date.

There are, of course, aspects of his game that I would love to see improvement on. Chief among them, his sub 30.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc. There is no way around it.

Okoro has to develop into a serviceable shooter from range in order to maximize his potential within the starting lineup. But seeing as he is only in Year 1, there is still plenty of time to improve in that department.

So has he done enough to change my mind?

Yes, simply put, I believe Isaac Okoro has done enough to claim a spot on the All-Rookie team. If I had to make a prediction today, I would guess that he earns a spot on the second team. This will heavily depend upon what positions the players ahead of Okoro are listed as.

He won’t have to worry about the likes of LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, Immanuel Quickley or Cole Anthony as all of them will vie for the presumed guard slots on these teams.

That leaves rookies such as Ohio State Alum, Jae’Sean Tate, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart to possibly compete with, all of whom are having great rookie seasons in their own right. This means that Okoro has a great chance to be named an All-Rookie, an honor in which he clearly deserves.

Next. J.B. Bickerstaff hits on Okoro's playmaking potential. dark

In the event that Okoro misses the cut, expect a massive chip on his shoulder next season. That could be a truly scary sight for opposing teams.