What will be Isaac Okoro’s role for the Cavs next season?

Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers *may have an Isaac Okoro-sized issue. The fifth overall pick two offseasons ago, Okoro was drafted to be the team’s next 3-and-D star, with an offensive game that would eventually come along.

Two years later and Okoro’s role on the team is undefined. With how much he brings on the defensive end, his limitations offensively make it hard to give him a larger role. He isn’t a threat from three, and teams usually gap him when he’s on the three-point line.

35 percent from three isn’t necessarily bad but it says something when nearly all of your looks are standstill, catch-and-shoot opportunities. He isn’t someone who can effectively put the ball on the deck and create his own shot. He made just two mid-range shots this season, and his athleticism isn’t utilized to its full extent.

Teams often blitzed Darius Garland, forcing Okoro to create for himself and it wasn’t pretty. In the playoffs, his flaws will be exposed and he could be forced out of the rotation, something we saw happen to Matisse Thybulle.

Still, Okoro is just 21 years old and it may be a little too early to give up on him if you’re the Cavs. The Cavaliers and President of Basketball Ops Koby Altman have reportedly talked about how they want to “unlock” him offensively (via Camryn Justice of WEWS), but what does that entail?

Can the Cavs find a consistent role for Okoro? Let’s discuss.

Looking at how the team may look next season, the starting lineup is essentially set in stone, or so it seems. Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, I hope, will occupy the backcourt while Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen will man the frontcourt.

For the starting wing position, the decision will be up to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff on whether he wants it to be Lauri Markkanen or Caris LeVert.

Looking at the bench, Kevin Love should remain the team’s sixth man, with one of Markkanen/LeVert being the “seventh” man off the bench. I haven’t even touched on the Cavs adding a backup point guard or their lottery pick. So, where does Okoro fit in all of this?

Things could always change but my early prediction is that Okoro will be the eighth man for this team. The question now turns to how can they maximize his play.

Maximizing opportunities starts with Okoro making the necessary improvements in his game. He’ll have to improve as a shooter and shot-creator to warrant a consistent and enlarged role.

He should spend the majority of his minutes alongside players who can complement his strengths. Lauri Markkanen, Kevin Love, and Darius Garland are who I’d expect those players to be.

I’d expect a reduced role to start, mainly as a catch-and-shoot guy with a lot of cuts to the rim. Okoro works great with a full head of steam to the rim so working more downhill, at the top of the key, and in transition makes sense.

Improvements to his shot would help to improve volume, meaning more confidence and makes, hopefully. As the season goes on, one can hope that he’ll receive more on-ball opportunities, particularly more work in the pick-and-roll, as he was surprisingly comfortable in this area in his career-high 32-point game during his rookie year. We’ve seen some flashes in other games as well.

The Cavaliers just have to get creative with Okoro, and the offense in general. “Unlocking” Isaac goes past his offense. It’s about adding things defensively, improving as a leader, and bringing another dynamic to the team.

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If he can do so, it will only raise the ceiling of what this team can do.