No. 4 – Isaac Okoro
Drafted by Cleveland in 2020, Isaac Okoro has had an unfortunate start to his NBA career. He joined the Cavaliers as a rough prospect with a high upside thanks to his athleticism and already strong defense.
In the face of Cleveland’s accelerated return to contention, Okoro’s development took a backseat. Okoro has continued to improve year by year on offense, averaging his career high at 36.3 percent from deep last season. Though Okoro had a slight improvement, his minutes per game were at a career low, and he still does not force rival defenses to respect him on the perimeter. His lack of offensive presence was a major factor in Cleveland’s underwhelming postseason showing.
This season, as the Cavaliers have made it clear that an improvement at the wing spot is a top priority, Okoro’s stability in Cleveland will be in the spotlight for discussions surrounding the former first-round pick.
With Strus’ playoff experience and better 3-point prowess, Okoro will likely be placed in a consistent bench role to start the season. Last year, Okoro came off the bench in favor of Caris LeVert as the starting three, but he eventually took over after LeVert’s role shifted throughout the year. Strus, though, has already solidified his fit in the Association much more than LeVert had by the time joined the Cavaliers. Okoro is likely to be in the second unit for the majority of the season unless his 3-point shooting takes a significant leap.
Overall, Okoro is in a unique situation compared to the other Cavaliers on this list. In a best-case scenario, Okoro fills a role for Cleveland similar to the role Josh Hart served for the New York Knicks last season. Both players are active, fast-paced 6-foot-5 wings with an emphasis on defensive impact, and reaching Hart’s greater shooting and offensive rhythm would be a terrific outcome for Isaac Okoro.
Otherwise, Okoro’s future with Cleveland centers more around where he plays next after a trade rather than how much time he plays per game for the Cavaliers.
His name has appeared in trade discussions plenty throughout last season and this summer; however, general manager Koby Altman seems to value Okoro more than the market dictates right now. This season, Okoro has ample opportunity to become the high-level 3-and-D wing that is so highly coveted across all 30 teams.
The ceiling is high for Okoro, and he has all it takes to reach it. But, his current level of impact is far from where it should be. It is make-it-or-break-it time for Okoro, and training camp will only be the starting point.