How is a player both indispensable and unusable? That’s the difficulty with evaluating the future of Isaac Okoro with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since he was drafted fifth overall in 2020 only Darius Garland has started more games than Isaac Okoro’s 179, and his on-ball defense has been vital to a team that has invested in multiple offense-first guards (Collin Sexton, Garland and Donovan Mitchell).
At the same time, Okoro’s role on offense continues to be an occasional cutter and oft-ignored spot-up shooter. He did raise his 3-point shooting to a respectable 36.3 percent from deep last season, but he did so on one of the most wide-open diet of shots in the league, and the New York Knicks acted as if he wasn’t even there in the playoffs, instead using his man to double other Cavaliers offensive actions.
The Cavs replaced Okoro in the starting lineup and their future plans by adding Max Strus this summer, but Strus is more of a “tough” perimeter defender than a lockdown, on-ball, fight-over-screens pest like Okoro is. The former Auburn Tiger is a magnet for generating steals, can pick up any guard in the league full-court, and his defensive instincts are top-notch. The Cavs are losing something real on that end even if they are finding an offensive boost on the other end.
Is there another team that wants to buy into Okoro’s defense while working around his offensive issues? Perhaps, especially one that isn’t starting two non-shooting bigs as the Cavaliers are. He is a restricted free agent this summer, so the team trading for him would have leverage to bring him back on a reasonable deal.
At the very worst, Okoro is an expiring contract to be used to match salary in a deal. If the Cavs do make a trade for a rotation player there is a very good chance that Isaac Okoro will be a part of the deal.