Isaac Okoro is known for his standout defense, and that’s why the Cleveland Cavaliers selected him highly in the 2020 NBA Draft. Okoro has steadily gotten better on that end of the floor, and he’s one of Cleveland’s better perimeter defensive options.
His mindset on defense, his ball pressure and relentless all have made a difference in recent seasons. All of those things, along with his strength, have led to him making his presence felt defensively, and Okoro’s role in the league is going to be predicated on his work on that end looking onward.
On offense, unfortunately, there’s plenty to be desired from Okoro.
It was going to take a while before his game on offense would potentially come to life, though, and him coming into the league during the COVID-19 pandemic was not easy. His role has seen changes throughout, too, and from here, he seems in line for a bench role for the most part with Cleveland.
On the plus side, there have been some positive strides from him as a shooter on spot-ups in the last two seasons, and last year, he did hit 36.3 percent of his deep attempts in the regular season. That, and him getting better as a cutter should be acknowledged, along with Okoro’s finishing.
In fairness, he’s still largely a work in progress offensively, and even with his catch-and-shoot growth demonstrated in the second half of last regular season, he’s got a ways to go before defenses respect him in that area.
He’s not going to shoot threes at a notable volume, and his deep looks are typically of the wide-open variety. Those were 45.5 percent of his shot attempts, and he hit 36.0 percent of those, per NBA.com’s shot tracking data.
So, with those things in mind, and other Cavs involved, are primarily defensive minutes enough for Okoro to potentially stick?
Okoro, as we’ve alluded to, should receive defensive wing minutes. He’s still one of the Cavs’ impact defenders there, and in some lineups with Caris LeVert and/or Dean Wade, Cleveland can be disruptive on the perimeter. That’d figure to be with some combination of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and/or Max Strus at other spots as rotators, with Evan Mobley and/or Jarrett Allen.
With Cleveland’s offseason moves, Okoro and Wade’s minutes will likely be all the more about their defense, but in Wade’s case, if he’s mostly healthy, he could be involved as the season progresses, it seems.
Wade is more of a respectable shooter, if he is healthy, is 6-foot-9, and is more suitable against bigger wings and forwards, which could theoretically make him more viable in higher-leverage minutes. If Wade isn’t dealing with injury ailments and is seemingly at full capacity, he should be better off in minutes come playoff time next year as well, to that point, as compared the 2023 Playoffs for Cleveland.
Now, the possibility is there that Okoro keeps improving as a shooter next season, and maybe there is more growth from him as an on-ball presence for the Cavaliers in 2023-24. There’s been flashes from him in that regard, and as previously noted, his cutting has improved over time. Let’s also not forget that Okoro is only 22 and will turn 23 in January.
Perhaps his offense takes a step forward to some degree, and he has more viability there.
However, it’s tough to say with certainty that will ever come from him, and if there’s not more respectability from the rising fourth-year wing, it’s difficult to foresee what his outlook might be with Cleveland moving forward. As a result, Okoro being a possible trade deadline piece next season could be feasible.
Maybe Okoro eventually receives a new deal from the Cavaliers at some point, but at this juncture, he doesn’t appear to be a high priority for the team as far a potential second contract. Eventually, him in a new situation might be the better outcome for both parties, and for his offensive development.