Like most role players in the NBA, Isaac Okoro has his flaws. Okoro has had his moments, but he is far from a finished product offensively, and over the course of three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he’s been inconsisten on that end.
On the plus side, Okoro deserves his credit for the defensive impact he’s had for Cleveland, as he’s one of the Cavaliers’ best perimeter defenders. Okoro’s relentless play on that end of the floor has been big for this Wine and Gold group, and his defense, hustle and transition play all aid his case for minutes.
At this juncture, though, it’s difficult to project whether Okoro is definitively going to be a long-term piece with the Cavaliers, given the offensive concerns with him. There are a number of other Cavaliers involved, too, and there are some length limitations with Okoro against some wings and bigger forwards at times. In other matchups, he has some problems with quicker lead guards as well, in some instances where Cleveland deploys him that way.
All of that said, Okoro is still not even 23 years old yet, and with him more often than not aiding the Cavs on defense, perhaps Cleveland could look to extend him by this coming season. For now, Okoro is set to be a restricted free agent next offseason, which is an alternative.
As for a possible extension, Evan Dammarell of Right Down Euclid seemingly stated how a comparable deal structure for Okoro with Cleveland could be along the lines of Jarred Vanderbilt’s contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers. That was fully-guaranteed for four years and $48 million, with the fourth season of that deal being a player option, of which was reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. Dammarell suggested that extension as a “comparison point” for a possible Okoro-Cavs extension, for when Cleveland tries to sign him long-term.
Okoro is a quality defender for Cleveland, and he has continually helped set the tone on that end of the floor in his minutes. His ball pressure has been a constant, and his frame can allow him to handle some bigger wings, and some forwards.
Okoro could make some more strides as a defensive playmaker off-ball, but he’s always going to empty the tank in that aspect, and shows attention to detail there consistently. That’s not a huge area of concern.
However, as was mentioned, Okoro’s offense leaves plenty to be desired.
Granted, Okoro has demonstrated more perimeter shooting viability than Vanderbilt to this point, which is something to consider for his potential offensively. Okoro closed each of his last two seasons strong as a catch-and-shoot player in terms of his clip, which was encouraging. In the 2022-23 regular season, he shot 36.3 percent from three, albeit on 2.3 attempts per game.
The volume was hardly high in those stretches, and Okoro’s playoff minutes dwindled earlier this year when he was way off from three. His regular season minutes, for what it’s worth, have been reduced each of the last two campaigns as well.
When factoring in those concerns, Okoro’s lack of playmaking and on-ball growth, this Vanderbilt deal structure may seem to be a bit rich, frankly.
Vanderbilt is not a shooting presence, and in LA’s situation, they’re not relying on him to provide much of a scoring punch. Despite him being limited offensively, Vanderbilt is a talented rebounder, is a quality finisher on cuts and putbacks, and he has more defensive versatility than Okoro at 6-foot-8 and a 7-foot-1 wingspan. He more than holds his own chasing shooters even at that size, too, and in some respects, is more fluid than Okoro.
Dammarell is plugged-in, though, and his comments hold weight. So perhaps that Vanderbilt contract extension is something Cleveland considers doing with Okoro/his representation prior to the 2023-24 season, or if there’s an offer sheet in that ball park next offseason, maybe the Cavs end up matching up promptly.
The Okoro outlook is one that’s difficult to project at the moment, honestly. He’d seemingly be a logical candidate to be traded by the 2024 deadline, but maybe he is a long-term defensive piece. We’ll see.