Cleveland Cavaliers: Isaac Okoro’s close was encouraging

Cleveland Cavaliers wing Isaac Okoro looks to make a play. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers wing Isaac Okoro looks to make a play. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

Isaac Okoro is still far from a finished product for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and as most rookies do, he had his ups and downs in Year 1. On the offensive end, Okoro, as one would’ve expected coming into the year, had his share of inconsistencies; he’s averaged 9.6 points per game in 32.4 minutes per contest.

Okoro needs to make strides with his handle and as a catch-and-shoot threat looking onward, and in his rookie season, hit only 29.0 percent of his three-point attempts. Those two areas will need to be priorities for him moving forward, and beginning in the upcoming offseason.

That said, Okoro has shown promise as a driver, and it was nice to see him look to be more assertive, especially from really late March/early April onward. In this recent batch of games, even while the Cavaliers being injury-riddled did play some into it clearly to end out the season, Okoro did step out as more so a bigger scoring threat.

In his last 13 games, Okoro had 15.7 points per contest, and with him looking to get to the rack more as a driver and even pick-and-roll creator, that led to more free throw opportunities. Him having 4.8 free throw attempts per outing in that aforementioned span was nice to see.

Looking at the strides for Okoro as the season progressed really, and with him starting to look more comfortable as the year wore on, that was a big plus from Cleveland’s closing stretch.

The Cavs, again while injuries definitely played into it, did admittedly lose 12 of their last 13, in terms of the aforementioned sample, and they did have their share of inconsistencies even before that point.

Albeit Okoro’s play has jumped out.

Okoro’s close to the season was encouraging for the Cavs.

As was noted, the Cavaliers had a particularly rough end to the 2020-21 campaign. Granted, the litony of injuries to guys such as Larry Nance Jr. (fractured right thumb) and Isaiah Hartenstein (concussion) didn’t help, nor did Darius Garland missing a seven-game span (left ankle sprain).

Nonetheless, Okoro showing promising strides on the offensive end of the floor in this closing stretch has been a key bright spot for Cleveland.

He again has a ways to go to be considered a truly viable catch-and-shoot threat with volume, though. But given how this season featured the quickest turnaround in NBA history, given the COVID-19-affected campaign/prior offseason, I’m not grilling him for that.

The 20-year-old has shown flashes in that regard, on the plus side, and him asserting himself as a driver more in this closing stretch was encouraging for the Cavs.

When that 225-pound frame gets going downhill, Okoro has proven to be tough to account for, and him showing positive signs as a PnR playmaker lately, as Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff touched on, has been a nice development.

He did demonstrate some quality PnR passing abilities to shooters to counter his drives in his lone collegiate season at Auburn, too, so perhaps that’s something we could see more of next season; we’ll see on that.

Along with that, when you factor in the defensive workload that Okoro has had, even as an (again) 20-year-old rook throughout the season, this close to the season on the offensive end has been good to see.

Also in relation to his closing stretch and the defensive versatility/work he’s put in, as KJG’s Mack Perry seemingly alluded to, Okoro making the NBA All-Rookie second squad would seem to be reasonable.

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Hopefully this close to his Year 1 is something Ice can build on, and with a full offseason, he should be trending in the right direction.