Cavs’ Isaac Okoro could have role reduction next season

Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

This season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Isaac Okoro made some improvements in his game, and as is typically how it goes with young players, he had some inconsistencies.

Defensively, there were again some head-scratching sequences where he was, for instance, fouling jump shooters, whether that was on closeouts to pull-up threats or when trying to navigate through off-ball screens.

There were some instances where quicker, primary playmaker types gave him problems, also. By and large, though, Okoro got better defensively, and with his workload in mind, I have to give some credit for his work on that end.

Defense is still going to be more of the focus with Okoro, either way, and generally speaking, he pretty well with how often he had to defend the opponents’ best perimeter players. There were some particularly rough matchups and results, but he was Cleveland’s best option for extended stretches still, and he’ll continue to be solid on that end, I believe.

On the other end, there were inconsistencies, just as there were in his rookie season. Okoro is still largely raw offensively, and whether he’s been at the 2 or 3 formally, he’s not necessarily in for production there.

This season, Okoro had 8.8 points per contest in a bit of a minutes trim from 32.4 to 29.6, and his field goal attempts decreased from 8.3 to 6.4 per outing. He was more efficient, though, as his finishing inside was better, and his effective field goal shooting clip went from 47.6 to 54.4 percent.

His three-point shooting was part of the reasoning for that uptick, as that clip went from 29.0 to 35.0 percent, buoyed by a nice last few months of the season on catch-and-shoots for him.

But, taking everything into consideration, Okoro will need to be more impactful game-to-game early on next season, which will be his third, and he needs to show more tangible progress with his offensive game. It’s tough to say right now if we’ll see that, and that’s part of why he could have a role reduction, involving minutes, next season.

Okoro could have a role reduction next season with the Cavs.

Okoro, as we expressed, will not realistically be a key option for extended stretches; maybe I end up being wrong in that regard. At this point, that’s just likely how things play out still.

This isn’t to say that we don’t see a third-year offensive leap for him, however, and Okoro did connect on 43.9 percent from three in his 31 regular season games. The issue is, still, in that stretch, he only attempted 1.8 per game, and on the season, his deep attempts went from 3.2 to 2.3 per game.

Granted, Kevin Love not being healthy last season likely had some to do with more deep looks, and even in a bench supersub this season, he was a significant presence in that realm. Plus, the sign-and-trade arrival of Lauri Markkanen had some to do with Okoro’s less shot attempts, and deep attempts, even with Collin Sexton missing most of the season.

In any case, next season, Okoro needs to show more offensively, I believe, to warrant playing a starting minutes-share regularly again. Maybe he does, and this year, he did show growth as a finisher and his cutting feel I thought was better, and his transition play was a bright spot.

But, this next season, in Year 3, his offense needs to level up, and it’d behoove him to work extensively on pull-ups this offseason, I personally think. Even if that’s not a high volume shot for him, it’d help him as a driving presence.

Regardless, when you factor in Lamar Stevens‘ play this season, which was promising, Sexton seemingly likely being back, and/or Caris LeVert with a full offseason to get further acclimated, I could foresee an Okoro role reduction next season. It’s not clear whether or not Sexton or LeVert will eventually be extended, for now at least, and if needed, I’d favor Sexton in that realm for now for Cleveland; we’ll see.

Either way, with the players we mentioned involved, and feasibly Lauri Markkanen/Dean Wade at the 3, not even with a potential wing draft pick, I could definitely foresee Okoro’s minutes getting trimmed next season.

I acknowledge he’s often a helpful defender, and he’s a physical presence, but if Okoro is going to be playing near 30 minutes again next season, particularly if Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are mostly healthy, defensively, Okoro needs to be more consistent on offense. If that end is spotty again, in his third season, it’s tough to warrant similar minutes for extended stretches of games.

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I wouldn’t be surprised, in that sense, if Okoro’s minutes are more often in the 19-24 range. He’s still just 21, so patience has been prudent. This next season, the offense just simply has to come around more.