Cavs: Isaac Okoro should get more playmaking chances in preseason

It’s clear that the likes of Darius Garland and Ricky Rubio will be handling the bulk of the primary playmaking duties for the Cleveland Cavaliers in this upcoming season.

With Garland, he had a bounce-back campaign for the Cavs last season after a fairly underwhelming rookie year, because of a variety of factors.

His 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per outing in Year 2 should have the team and its fans pumped about what’s to come for him this upcoming season, though, and his shiftiness, deep range and vision were on display throughout 2020-21.

In relation to Rubio, who was an offseason trade acquisition via deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he’s not the scoring presence of Garland. That’s apparent, but he’ll provide a backup 1 upgrade, and Rubio’s defense and leadership should make a difference on and off the floor for Cleveland.

I believe he still has plenty to give, and leading into the season, hopefully he and other new acquisitions, such as Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley, can get acclimated to the team in training camp. That will begin next Monday, Sep. 27.

That said, I do believe that something that could be beneficial for the club and a crucial young piece for them is Isaac Okoro potentially getting some more playmaking chances in preseason action.

It was only in Las Vegas Summer League, but Okoro did show some positive signs in that realm then, and next season, he could seemingly be more of a secondary playmaking presence. So him having more playmaking work, and perhaps a bit more as a de facto primary playmaker in preseason could aid him there heading into his second season.

Cavs: Okoro should receive more playmaking chances in preseason.

I acknowledge that Okoro is not a player that going to have nearly the role of Garland or Collin Sexton on the offensive end; we don’t need to get into that. It was evident coming into his rookie year that Okoro was a very capable defender, but was pretty raw on the offensive end in the shooting sense, and that he was far from a finished product there.

He had 9.6 points in 32.4 minutes per outing, and hit only 29.0 percent of his three-point attempts.

His close to the season, regardless of injuries playing into it some, was encouraging, though, and I believe he’ll be able to focus more on offense next season. He had 16.2 points per game in his final 12 games, and there were some signs of growth as a passer/secondary playmaker in that stretch that showed potential there.

And even with it only being Summer League, Okoro did demonstrate some more progress there, and next season, Cleveland is reportedly looking to get him some more pick-and-roll opportunities, which could bring more of that to fruition.

To be clear, Okoro only had 1.9 assists per game last season, and an assist rate of 8.6 percent, so I’m not suggesting he’ll be a regular primary playmaking guy. According to Cleaning The Glass, he ranked in the 40th percentile among wings in assist rate (for them, that was 8.8 percent for him).

But on the plus side, when Okoro was more assertive offensively, particularly from April-onward, it did lead to more success for him as a driver, and when given more looks to create for others off that/in PnR, he looked to maybe be a viable playmaker. That’s more so in the secondary sense, in fairness.

Nonetheless, even with it not showing a ton for his output last season, as we mentioned, when Okoro was given some chances in his lone collegiate season at Auburn, the playmaking potential did show then, too.

It wasn’t a high volume for him in PnR offense at 13.9 percent, but in the passing sense, spot-up shooters did place in the 93rd percentile in scoring situations off of deliveries from Okoro then, per Synergy Sports and as h/t The Stepien’s Spencer Pearlman.

So, coming into next season, after positive signs in Summer League and at the end of last season, and after a full offseason, I’d like to see Okoro receive more playmaking chances in preseason.

Pick-and-roll opportunities I’d imagine could be in the cards, but I’d like to see Cleveland give Okoro a bit of looks to make things happen for others in the mid-post, also, for instance. The Cavs are reportedly looking to give the 20-year-old some work there in his second season, so maybe in the preseason, that could play out.

For reference, the Wine and Gold are set to begin preseason action on Oct. 5 at the Chicago Bulls, and will then play at the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 6. From there, they’ll have three more outings versus the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 8 at home, versus Chicago again on Oct. 10 and close out the preseason at Indiana on Oct. 15.

Hopefully Okoro gets some solid work in there in those outings, or at least three of them really, and I’d like to see if he can show more playmaking progress.