Cavs: Darius Garland, Taurean Prince can help Isaac Okoro with handle

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 had his share of flashes on-ball in his first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, even with him having some rookie struggles offensively. 9.6 points per outing in 32.4 minutes on average was not exactly tearing it up overall, but Okoro did show positive signs as a scorer and his driving abilities were a plus.

While injuries to others, such as to Darius Garland, for eight of the last nine games of Cleveland’s season did play into it some, and/or others, Okoro did show more assertiveness in the closing stretch of his Year 1. From April onward seemingly, he was looking to attack more, too, which was nice to see.

In Okoro’s last 12 games, he had 16.2 points per outing, and there more playmaking signs from him in that batch of contests.

In a general sense, that sort of thing was encouraging, and his mindset from April onward it appeared led to more meaningful opportunities for him on-ball.

Granted, Okoro of course does need to get better as a catch-and-shoot threat, for throughout games. He hit only 29.0 percent of his three-point attempts last season, and he’s not really a pull-up threat at this point.

Nonetheless, for the to-be second-year wing, with a full offseason ahead, I could foresee him progressing with his shot from the outside, at least off-the-catch. He could feasibly make some strides in relation to floaters, too, I believe.

Okoro again is a capable driver though, and that’s mostly with his strength aiding him, and his finishing was decent for a rookie wing in Year 1. It was a plus to see Okoro as the season wore on look to initiate contact more, as opposed to earlier on when he didn’t appear to be doing so as much, and that led to a respectable free throw rate of 28.1 percent.

That being said, for Okoro to keep progressing next season/onward on-ball and/or as a driver, his handle will need to improve, objectively. There were some sequences when Okoro did change speeds on-ball, which was meaningful.

Albeit that wasn’t the case nearly enough, and for the 20-year-old, if he can improve his handle, it will go a long way. Two guys that could really make a difference in that realm are the likes of Darius Garland and Taurean Prince, though, I believe.

Garland and Prince can help Okoro improve his handle for the Cavs.

Garland, who had quite the bounce-back year last season, demonstrated his change-of-pace and/or on-ball creation abilities often throughout his Year 2, and that led to plenty of success.

His feel for getting to his spots with hang dribbles/hesitations, step backs and side steps, and from well-timed crossovers leading to push shots resulted in his considerable share of buckets time and time again in 2020-21.

The handle for Garland and with him seemingly his true self last season health-wise for the most part led to him having 17.4 points per game. And while I would like to see it more consistently game-to-game, his off-the-bounce three-point shooting capabilities took a step forward last season, which was nice to see.

So to me, in regards to his driving feel and use of change-of-pace/hang dribbles, Okoro getting some pointers from Garland leading into next season could make quite an impact.

From there, while he did have a few tough injury ailments last season after having been acquired via trade from the Brooklyn Nets, Prince’s shot creation abilities, particularly with side steps and step backs/pull-ups did lead to notable success for him.

Prince’s season did end up coming to a close in late April due to left ankle surgery seemingly for him/the Cavs to be proactive, but he was in a good rhythm it appeared leading up to that point.

In his last 10 games active prior to that, he had 13.6 points per outing off the bench and his abilities off-the-bounce with pull-ups to counter hard closeouts, side steps after ball fakes and hesitations in pick-and-roll led to quality looks.

So while I’d assume there was advice he, along with Garland for instance, and maybe to some degree Collin Sexton, gave Okoro in terms of helping progress with his handle already, heading into Year 2, I’d think there could be more with a full offseason ahead.

As an aside, Prince was previously, along with Cedi Osman, a key Cav mentioned in prior trade rumors, so with him set to expiring after next season, maybe he could be dealt before next season, theoretically.

But with his shot creation abilities and feel for getting to his spots on-ball to pair with his catch-and-shoot acumen, I still could see Prince being around for a sizeable chunk of 2021-22, and/or maybe even with Cleveland through next deadline. We’ll see on that, though.

Next. 2 goals for Garland in Year 3. dark

Albeit circling back, I’d think that more exposure to Garland and Prince leading into next season, and/or just some pointers for them at various times seemingly could make a difference for Okoro in his second season. That’s factoring in more work with the Cavaliers player development staff, too, anyhow.