Cavs draft: Should Jonathan Kuminga start from jump if CLE pick?

G League Ignite wing Jonathan Kuminga drives. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
G League Ignite wing Jonathan Kuminga drives. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers wing Isaac Okoro drives. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Examining Isaac Okoro’s close for the Cavs, and Kevin Love/Larry Nance Jr.’s outlook

Kuminga is set to be playing the lion’s share of his minutes at the 3 and 4 spots, so with that in mind, we’ll touch on Isaac Okoro, to go with Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr., seemingly.

In regards to Okoro, while he had some rookie moments and games, even with such a difficult matchup workload game-to-game, he did do a solid job on-ball defensively.

He projects to be a switchable defensive piece for Cleveland looking onward, and although he is still fairly raw offensively, Okoro did show plenty of positive signs in that regard as his season wore on, and he closed the season strong.

Cleveland having been injury-riddled did play into it, and with Darius Garland banged up, Okoro did handle more of a playmaking load, albeit he did show positive signs as a passer in the closing batch of games.

And though the shot needs work for Isaac, who hit only 29.0 percent of his three-point attempts on the year, he was a capable driver and was able to get to the free throw line with his physicality. In addition, he showed some change-of-pace abilities as the season progressed.

In Okoro’s last 12 games, he had 16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per outing, and again, to me, there’s plenty of potential for him, if he can improve his handle this offseason and develop a pull-up. I can’t for certain if we’ll end up seeing that expansion, though, and/or if will show earlier on next season.

Nonetheless, Kuminga’s shooting consistency does need work, too. He hit only 24.6 percent of his three-point attempts in the G League bubble, and his effective field goal shooting clip was only 43.0 percent. The free throw hit rate was 62.5 percent, to go with that.

But the shot creation for Kuminga was a key positive and he is a powerful driver and slasher in his own right. The handle for Kuminga is a plus as well, and even with the playmaking splits not highlighting it, Kuminga did show flashes as a secondary playmaker with his vision.

If he can demonstrate catch-and-shoot viability earlier on next season, he could end up taking Okoro’s starting spot, one would think, too. That’s a big if to me, though.

From there, with Kuminga having enough size and length, and with him being pretty sturdy even at only 18, perhaps he could end up being a starting 4 early on.

That said, with Kevin Love one would imagine still having a good possibility of being in Cleveland at the beginning of next season, I’d still think he’d likely start. That’s with the spacing element, and secondary playmaking feel.

If Cleveland, while I’d say it’s unlikely, potentially comes to a buyout agreement with Love, or maybe waives-and-stretches him, which again one wouldn’t assume is likely, perhaps Larry Nance Jr. would be the starting 4 to begin next season. That’s with Kuminga being Cleveland’s pick, even, for example.

Nance, although he had his share of injury woes this now-past season, when mostly healthy proved to be a nice all-around contributor, and he’s the Cavs’ best defender, especially in the team sense, and is a quality passer. The catch-and-shoot viability with him has come along too.

So with both the 3 and 4 positions in mind, particularly with Okoro’s offensive progression and with his IQ defensively, and improved cutting feel, I’d expect Kuminga to not be a Day 1 starter, if he were the Cavaliers pick.

Could I be wrong, though? Sure.

Either way, though, it is evident that if he ends up being selected by the Cavs in the 2021 NBA Draft, Kuminga could definitely start later on next season.