With the NBA Draft Lottery behind us, four teams remaining in
the hunt for a championship and the 2021 NBA Draft approaching in a
little over a month, rumor season is heating up. We’ve seen
coaching changes, hires and fires in front offices and even a rare
trade in the middle of the playoffs.
The latest rumblings over the last couple of days involve
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton. Multiple reporters,
including SI's Jeremy Woo and our own Matt Babcock, say that
Sexton’s name has surfaced in trade talks.
It’s not all that surprising to hear that the Cavs are open to
moving the feisty, improving 22-year-old, as he is eligible for a
maximum rookie-scale contract extension this offseason worth five
years and $168 million, per SpotRac. Woo wrote that
Cleveland's front office would rather trade Sexton than give him a
lucrative deal that would limit their flexibility going
On lottery night, the Cavs had a little bit of luck on their
side, as they bumped up from fifth to the No. 3 overall pick by the
end of the drawing. At that third slot, most mock drafts have
Cleveland selecting Jalen Green, Evan Mobley or Jalen Suggs;
Scottie Barnes has been another popular name. (BasketballNews.com's latest mock draft has the Cavs
selecting Green). Cleveland general manager Koby Altman even
said in his post-lottery press conference that the team didn’t
expect to select as high as third, so it makes sense that a wide
net has been cast.
If the Cavs end up going with one of Green or Suggs, it’s easy
to see the “too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen” scenario playing out.
Green is a guard or wing, and Suggs is definitely a guard, so that
would leave an odd man out. That presumably would be Sexton or
Isaac Okoro, depending on the rotations J.B. Bickerstaff would
construct. (After last season’s injury-filled debacle, Bickerstaff
showed how well he can adapt with what was available, and he wasn’t
afraid to get creative, so keep that in mind).
Say that is the case and Cleveland goes with one of the Jalens
-- should Sexton, who is one of the best scorers in this league and
coming off a career season of over 24 points per game with improved
efficiency and playmaking, be rushed out of town just because a
rookie might reduce his role a little bit? Do we even know if that
will be the case? And if that is how things wind up, does Altman
have to act swiftly when handling this?
The answer is, “No.” The Cavs do not have to make a decision on
this right away. The first day that either side can agree to the
aforementioned extension (or one similar to it) is Aug. 3., which
officially marks day one of the 2021-22 NBA year. They can
negotiate up until the day before the regular season begins; if
Sexton and Cleveland don’t come to an agreement, the fourth-year
guard would become a restricted free agent in the 2022
(For a reference to that working in real time, see Jarrett
Allen’s current situation, which Sexton could be in next summer if
the sides don’t work it out).
Speaking strictly from opinion, sending out a player that a
team source described as a “cultural
backbone” before he even begins to approach his prime would be
foolish. Lest we forget that Sexton -- the human piñata who's taken
hit after hit after hit, whether it’s been unnamed teammates
questioning his knowledge, the public attempting to drive a wedge
in between he and his backcourt partner Darius Garland and any
other nonsense that he’s been unfairly targeted for -- has kept his
head down and has kept pushing on. This is a player who has in
three years gone through four different head coaches and had a
grand total of 52 different teammates (12 of whom he has played in at least
50 games with).
And despite that fact, Sexton was selected to the Rising Stars
in his sophomore year after being left out his rookie season. He
was a legitimate candidate for the All-Star game in Year 3. When
you look at the surrounding circumstances and stroke of terrible
injury luck the team went through, it’s quite remarkable.
Sexton’s not a perfect player by any stretch of the imagination.
He has his moments of tunnel vision. He could stand to take more
threes (the team wants him and Garland
taking up to eight a night). Defensively, the effort is there,
but the execution and awareness away from the ball are lacking;
it’s not the best formula when you’re undersized. He needs to be
better with the ball in his hands, and particularly, more patient
in pick-and-roll situations to let plays develop.
Once again, though, we’re looking at labels being slapped onto
him after just three years of his career, as if he hasn’t made
progress and should be a finished product. There is a middleground
here that seemingly nobody wants to find, particularly in our
new-age infatuation of extremism.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from watching the likes of Ja
Morant, Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray, Devin Booker, Trae Young
and these other young guards bursting onto the scene, it’s to see
things through. The mid-range game and floaters have been the key
to many of their successes, and it’s something both Sexton and
Garland have implemented in their game. Every franchise is
different, and moves must be made to surround Cleveland’s core with
veterans and supplementary talent.
But could you imagine Sexton with the same spotlight and
opportunity? This is a player who nearly led Alabama to victory in
a 3-on-5 setting as a freshman on national television. Look up how
he’s historically performed against Young and his hometown Atlanta
Hawks, who are now in the driver’s seat in the Eastern Conference
If you want a more recent example, why not go back to January
against the Brooklyn Nets? Young Bull nailed a game-tying three
over Kyrie Irving in overtime, and followed it up by scoring 15 of
Cleveland’s 20 points in double overtime to spoil the debut game of
Steve Nash’s Big Three. Sexton had 42 points and sent the Cavs to a
7-7 record at the time.
“He's not scared of the moment, and he feels like he belongs,” a
Cavs team source told BasketballNews.com a couple of weeks ago. “No
question [Sexton is built for that stage].”
A trade may not even be an indictment of Sexton and more about
the timing, and that’s understandable. At some point, the wins have
to come along, especially for a team entering its third or
third-and-a-half season of a rebuild, realistically; the 2018-19
season was an unmitigated disaster with championship leftovers
forced to play with Sexton and guys on 10-day contracts trying to
stick in the NBA.
Again, there should be no reason to hurry this hypothetical
move. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, it’s not like Sexton’s
trade value would magically evaporate over the course of 100 days.
And if you keep him around without an extension, that just gives
him the motivation to prove his worth going into a contract year.
Being a restricted free agent, the Cavs can match any offer sheet
he would receive; the only way he could go elsewhere is if
Cleveland allowed it. You don’t have to choose one or the other
just yet in terms of Sexton or Garland; you may not have to at
We’re seeing more and more three-guard sets as the NBA trends
smaller, and a trio of Garland, Sexton and Green would be the same
size essentially as what Cleveland went with last season in
Garland, Sexton and Okoro. If Bickerstaff would elect to go the
defensive route, the three could look like Garland, Green and
Okoro, with Sexton packing one of the most powerful punches off the
bench. For years, league officials have believed that is Sexton’s
ideal role (a la Jordan Clarkson or Lou Williams); that sells his
capabilities short, and benching the team’s top scoring presence
for a rookie could inhibit things, but it could turn out that way
if Sexton sticks around. We don’t know. Time will tell.
Remember, a lot of this is banking on what the Houston Rockets
decide to do with the No. 2 overall pick as well.
What happens if the Cavs want Green, but the Rockets draft him
and you’ve already dealt Sexton away? Now you’re really in trouble,
and have to bank on an unproven rookie to fill that spot.
Here’s an instance that hasn’t really been brought up, too: What
if the Cavs want Mobley and he falls to them? Say that happens, and
Cleveland selects the USC big man brimming with potential. While
Mobley’s playstyle and body type indicate that he’ll be a 4 instead
of a 5, would that compromise a potential contract extension with
Allen, a restricted free agent?
If that were to happen, there would certainly be no reason to
move Sexton, and then Allen’s future with the team could be in
question, as he’d be due around $15-20 million annually over four
or five years depending on negotiations. Paying Allen that kind of
money and drafting another seven-footer, with Kevin Love still
around, probably wouldn’t be the best choice. Particularly because
the team is still lacking a primary initiator and ball-handler with
There are many decisions that have to be made this summer for
the Cavs, including Allen, the draft and free agency, on an
With Sexton, they can, and should, take their time.