Given the Cleveland Cavaliers injuries, it's crucial for them to get the "other guys" to step up right now. Cleveland will be without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley for an extended period, and in the last three games, Donovan Mitchell has been out with a Non-COVID-related illness.
To their credit, without three of their core four guys, including ones without Mitchell in that case, Cleveland has won two of those contests. The Cavaliers lost on Thursday night to the Zion Williamson-less New Orleans Pelicans in a game New Orleans controlled, but Cleveland responded with a heck of a bounce-back W at the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.
Down their top four scorers on the season, the Cavaliers once again moved the ball very well throughout, and made DeMar DeRozan work for his production at the other end. Zach LaVine was still out for the Bulls, which was impactful, but Craig Porter Jr. played a terrific game for Cleveland in another spot start with Mitchell out, and Jarrett Allen was outstanding on the interior on both ends. Allen, along with Tristan Thompson, were big factors in Cleveland outscoring Chicago 30-4 in second chance points, and the Cavs have made timely shots in the contest.
However, something that has jumped out of late for the Cavaliers has been the aggression Isaac Okoro has played with, with Cleveland playing him more recently with their injuries. He helped get the Cavaliers off on the right foot on Saturday with his rim pressure, and hopefully, this recent stretch is something he can build on moving forward in his minutes.
Okoro's paint pressure seems to be a key point of emphasis recently, and the Cavs have benefited from that.
Okoro has quietly been playing solid basketball this season for the Cavaliers, whether he's been starting when needed due to injuries, or generally off the bench. In the last 11 games, Okoro has had 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per outing, and and in four of the past five games, he's had double digits in situational starts.
What's been great to watch from Okoro has been his assertiveness in getting downhill, attacking gaps and making plays for others off of that.
In the win over the Bulls, Okoro's driving and rim pressure in the first half ignited the Cavaliers, and though he shot only three-of-nine overall, and was zero-of-five from three, he was able to get to the rim, and he shot six-of-seven from the foul line. He added three assists in the game as well, and in these recent games where the Cavs have been especially shorthanded, his secondary ball movement has been meaningful.
For a Cavaliers squad that has been getting their threes up and moving the ball, operating essentially be committee of late with their injuries, having guys such as Okoro and Porter pressuring the paint still is key. Porter has been superb when he's had opportunities this season, and so far this season, though catch-and-shoot threes are crucial, Okoro getting into the paint still has to be an area of emphasis.
Even when the Cavs are healthier, in his minutes, if Okoro can get some easier ones at the rim, and help as a kickout player off of his drives, that will enable other role players to have more open looks. Conversely, when Okoro is passive on offense, even with his great defense involved, sometimes he can seemingly get lost in games on the other end.
However, he's been demonstrating more and more offensive growth in recent weeks, and with Cleveland's recent injuries, this uptick in aggression is all the more meaningful from the fourth-year wing.