Cavaliers draft: How Cleveland blew the 2018 NBA Draft

Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images
Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images /
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The 2018 NBA Draft was an awkward moment in Cleveland Cavaliers history. LeBron James was less than two weeks away from taking his talents to Malibu Beach, but that wasn’t yet official. The Cavs were armed with the eighth overall pick, acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade and clung to at the Trade Deadline in lieu of using it to upgrade the roster around LeBron.

Four years before, the Miami Heat had been in a similar situation with LeBron and used that pick on a player he “liked”, Shabazz Napier, in an effort to convince him to stay. It didn’t work and LeBron returned home to Cleveland. This time around, the Cavs were wise to use it on a building block for the future, not on the soon-to-flee James.

The problem? They used the pick on the wrong player.

The Cavaliers made a mistake in drafting Collin Sexton in 2018

Collin Sexton was a well-known name to even casual fans at the time of the draft. He was a high-octane scorer at Alabama and famously balled out in a game where he was forced to play 3-on-5. He was confident, and relentless and had all of those “intangible” qualities old-school coaches talk about when evaluating players.

Sexton hasn’t been bad, by any means. He averaged 16.7 points per game as a rookie and as many as 24.3 points per game in 2020-21, his third season, and across a five-year career has averaged 19 points per game while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from 3-point range. He also had to move to shooting guard because he never developed as a playmaker, is an inconsistent defender and hasn’t proven he can elevate himself and those around him on a good team.

For the eighth pick, adding a high-end bench player (that’s what Sexton is due to his size and play style) isn’t the worst outcome. He has the fourth-most points per game of his draft class. Yet when you look at the players to go directly after him, the case for taking Sexton crumbles.