Lack of clarity with Isaac Okoro should tell Cavs what they need to know

Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

Through three seasons, Isaac Okoro has made his mark on the defensive end for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Coming out of Auburn, Okoro looked to be a player that had the makings of a quality defender, and for the most part, he has given Cleveland productive minutes there.

Okoro has improved his screen navigation over time, does a commendable job of forcing tough shots, competes his tail off and usually makes opposing perimeter threats work for everything they get. Much of what he has provided for the Cavaliers has been thankless work, but it’s not stuff one doesn’t have appreciation for.

What is more so the issue with Okoro is the offensive end. Through three seasons, he’s posted 8.2 points per contest on a true shooting rate of 56.5 percent, in what’s been an average of 27.6 minutes per outing.

Okoro has made some strides in the past two seasons with his catch-and-shoot play, to his credit, and in his last 39 appearances of the 2022-23 regular season, he made 44.1 percent of his three-point attempts. In that span of games, he also shot 53.2 percent from the field, too.

The problem is, Okoro is still raw offensively, and in that said span of regular season games, he wasn’t shooting a ton of threes, either. The volume was 2.6 attempts per outing, and his total shot attempts per game in that time was 5.3 in 24.5 minutes per contest.

Granted, Okoro’s not a player who is going to have a notable usage, and his defense is his calling card. Even with those caveats, though, when debating whether or not Okoro could be a player that sticks with the Cavaliers for the long term, with it still not being clear, that should give the Cavaliers their answer, ultimately.

The lack of clarity with Okoro should tell the Cavs what they need to know.

Okoro is still 22 years old, and he might have some untapped offensive potential still. He demonstrated progression as a catch-and-shoot player this season, and there was some of that displayed from him in the second half of last season as well.

But, in the postseason against the New York Knicks, in an underwhelming Cavaliers first round performance, his ineffective offensive play and shooting woes led to him having minutes inconsistencies.

Caris LeVert would end up starting at the 3 position in the last three games of the series, and even with Okoro having some good moments in those contests, and his defense helping Cleveland in recent seasons, his offense is still a big question mark.

Okoro is extension-eligible this offseason, so perhaps down the road, the team and him could agree to terms on a possible new deal.

For next season in mind in this case for now, he’s set to make $8.9 million in the 2023-24 campaign. That’s not an astronomical deal for then.

However, with Okoro still being limited offensively as an on-ball presence in set situations, a possible Caris LeVert re-signing this offseason, and Cleveland needing to prioritize adding reliable shooting this offseason on the wing, Okoro’s long-term outlook seems fairly murky.

Okoro or Cedi Osman, Ricky Rubio and/or future second-round picks could feasibly be involved in potential trade talks this offseason it appears, based on rumors about what could transpire in the Cavs offseason. Players such as Dorian Finney-Smith, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bodganovic and/or others could seemingly be trade targets to watch for Cleveland.

Plus, if Cleveland signs a veteran wing shooter/scorer in free agency, that’d add to the conversation about the Cavaliers maybe eventually moving from Okoro as well, whether it’s this offseason, or by the 2024 trade deadline.

This isn’t necessarily an indictment on Okoro. He has value, but for a Cavs team whose timeline was moved up after the Donovan Mitchell trade, and with the emergence of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, this team needs to add more dynamic offensive players. Cleveland could still be able to find ways to fill in defensively with players such as Lamar Stevens, Dean Wade, Caris LeVert, if he’s back, Ricky Rubio provided he’s more comfortable next season, and/or other role players.

While it’s not a certainty, it’s starting to become harder and harder to foresee Okoro being extended by the Cavaliers, or getting an new deal next offseason. Then, Cleveland could extend him a qualifying offer of roughly $11.8 million to match possible offer sheets, but it might not even get to that point.

Furthermore, Chris Fedor of recently reporting how “Okoro is no longer viewed as a “core player” for the Cavaliers leads one to believe Isaac might not stick around. Fedor did state in the report how Cleveland does like him and his work ethic/attitude, they essentially just can’t wait on him developing more.

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For the Wine and Gold, the lack of knowing as it pertains to Okoro should be telling to them.