The good news?
The Cleveland Cavaliers have drafted well enough to avoid forced trades early into their players’ careers.
The bad news?
Isaac Okoro is coming along at a snail’s pace.
And at fifth overall, that can’t happen.
That’s right, Okoro was the fifth overall pick.
But Okoro was right there with them–early lottery picks projected to serve as future cornerstones.
Here was O’Connor’s TLDR blurb on Okoro before the draft:
“Superb defender with a perfect skill set for the modern positionless game, but needs to improve his jumper to have more value on offense.”
Yeah, that about sums it up.
After his first season, Okoro seemed like a total bust.
Would you be happy if Isaac Okoro turned into a 2015-16 Andre Iguodala type player? pic.twitter.com/7euSDWPLit
— Cleveland’s Fake ESPN 44-38 (Off-season) (@CAVS4MVP) May 5, 2022
And, just for fun, here’s a list of players that the Cavs might have wished they’d taken at five instead of Okoro: Tyrese Maxey, Saddiq Bey, Tyrese Haliburton, Obi Toppin, Onyeka Okongwu, Jalen Smith, Isaiah Stewart.
Some of those players are guards who might not have fit with the pre-existing Garland-Collin Sexton backcourt tandem.
But nonetheless, after his rookie year, there were plenty of players the Cavs might have wished they had gone with.
That’s because Okoro’s rookie season was bad.
He was a minus-407 that season, one of the lowest by a rookie in NBA history.
Okoro’s RPM (real plus minus) was a below-average -1.58.
But he showed flashes of defense, which carried into the 2021-22 season.
This past season was a significantly better one for Okoro.
For starters, he was a plus-99, up exponentially from the year before.
And he was generally handed the Cavs’ most pressing perimeter defense assignment.
And sometimes that worked out well.
Other times, he was torched.
Or fouling, his poor body control preventing him from a clean coverage.
Neither one of which are great responses to a jump shot.
And offensively, he was still a virtual non-factor for most of the season.
He was one of the worst shooters on the team last season.
And though Okoro is supposedly an excellent rim-finisher, the former Auburn star shot worse in the restricted area than teammate Rajon Rondo.
But there were some signs of life down the stretch.
For instance, he shot about 44% on catch and shoot and corner threes after February 1st.
Isaac Okoro has the potential to be like Desmond bane but he’s a much better at finishing and defensively #LetEmKnow
— Ochai Agbaji burner account (@AnasAden3) May 1, 2022
In March and April, Okoro scored on 45% of his shots beyond the arc.
Those are good numbers, and signs of increased confidence down the stretch.
One problem–the volume was incredibly low.
If Okoro can increase the number of shots he puts up, there’s a chance that number dips, but also that it increases.
Or, if it stays the same, that’s a win, too!
Maybe the strong finish to the season is a sign of a burgeoning leap from Okoro.
The Cavs are probably hoping so, so that it will validate such a high selection.
But fans would be wise to temper their expectations; if he shoots more, it may not be better.