Cavs: Transition chances are key for maximizing Isaac Okoro

Isaac Okoro had his ups and downs in Year 1 for the Cleveland Cavaliers, as one would’ve likely assumed coming into last season. On the season, he had 9.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game.

As one would point out, the catch-and-shoot viability of Okoro is still a question mark long-term, as he hit 29.0 percent of his 3.2 three-point attempts per game as a rookie. In his lone collegiate season at Auburn, his three-point shooting hit rate was 28.6 percent, so that was to be expected some.

That was even more so with the lack of offseason to be able to get a decent amount of work in with teammates, the lack of Summer League play and the lightning quick turnaround from the prior draft to the regular season.

Coming into next season though, it will pay off for Okoro to get a legitimate offseason to work on his game with the Cavaliers/their player development staff. Also, on the plus side, there were flashes from him when the confidence was there more as a perimeter shooter.

Okoro did show some quality driving ability game-to-game, and while his handle does need to get better in coming years and he’ll need to change his pace more consistently, that was something we’ll see more I’d think. Along with that, even with injuries playing into it some, Okoro’s strong close to last season was a bright spot for Cleveland in a rough end to 2020-21, injuries aside.

To me though, it was apparent in a general sense that Okoro did often make quality decisions in transition, and his finishing there it appeared got better as the season wore on. Those looks are crucial for him really getting going too, and hopefully that’s something that’s emphasized looking onward.

Transition chances are key for the Cleveland Cavaliers maximizing Okoro.

Again, Okoro needs to make strides as a shooter, to drive that point home. I’m not suggesting otherwise.

And whether or not the catch-and-shoot progress is there in the percentages next season, for Okoro to help himself more as a driver, he does need to develop some pull-up game, even if that’s not leading to much volume in that realm. I wouldn’t imagine it would be for a while, either.

Nonetheless, even with Okoro I believe having real playmaking potential, and that was on display in the closing stretch of last season in settled offense, especially, it’s crucial that he gets a number of transition looks game-to-game.

I thought earlier on in his rookie campaign, he seemed hesitant too much when it came to pushing in secondary transition situations, when there looked to be opportunities to attack gaps there in early offense.

As the year progressed, however, and particularly April on, the young wing was showing more assertiveness in those situations, and/or in standard transition/open floor scenarios. And somewhat on-par with how he displayed his abilities in those instances at Auburn, it seemingly led to more success throughout games for him, and it helped generate free throw chances.

Granted, having the likes of Larry Nance Jr. (1.7 steals per game in 2020-21), for example, hopefully healthy coming into next season would aid in generating more of those sort of looks for Okoro with Nance’s team defensive instincts, for one.

That’s factoring in Nance could very well be in there for over half of games, I’d imagine, and him and Okoro appeared to have a nice chemistry in secondary/open break situations with Nance’s heady lead passes.

I’d think that Darius Garland could look to push more moving forward for Cleveland too, though, which could bode well for a player like Okoro.

And overall, the Cavs coaching staff should be stressing to Okoro to have an aggressive mindset in transition situations, as with his strength and 225-pound frame and body control, those can be great looks for him with defenders on their heels.

Anyhow, while Okoro placing in the 45th percentile in transition scoring last season, per Synergy Sports, wasn’t outstanding per se, him seeming to push more in secondary break situations from April on was something that clearly helped him. Moving forward, that sort of assertiveness from him, and him looking to be a true grab-and-go threat after defensive rebounds could generate great looks for him and get him more confident in games.

Okoro’s 21.4 percent transition frequency (per Synergy) was telling, too, and that’s about what I’d expect him to have next season as well. But the mindset for him, to reiterate, has to be more of what we saw later on last season in that realm.

Moreover, with his athleticism and functional strength that’s put to use in driving downhill, combined with his solid finishing touch with both hands, it’s no secret that transition chances are key for maximizing Okoro.

If a pull-up presence for him comes along, that’d make him more capable in those sequences as a scorer and playmaker, too. Considering the dude is just 20, I’d think that could play out for him in the near future also.