It's odd for a rebuilding team to have a tough decision to make
with one of their three best players. It's even more odd when that
player is still on his rookie contract. It's
especially odd when that player is coming off a
season in which he averaged over 24.0 points per game.
But that's where the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves with
If you aren't part of Draft Twitter, your first introduction to
Sexton was likely his 3-on-5 showing at Alabama. Literally, 3-on-5
That's the kind of competitor he is. As such, it's no surprise
that he's an incredibly hard worker. That work has turned him into
one of the better scorers in the NBA.
As referenced earlier, Sexton is coming off a season in which he
averaged 24.3 points with a 51/37/82 shooting split. He's turned
himself into a reliable pull-up threat, particularly from the
mid-range area. The jumper complements his natural burst, making
him a booger to deal with in the half-court.
When Sexton runs hot, he can completely bend games. His 42-point
masterpiece against the Brooklyn Nets' Big 3 -- a game in which he
dropped 22 of those points between two overtime periods -- stands
out as the quintessential Sexton game.
With such a premium on three-level scoring, why would the Cavs
even consider trading this guy before
his second contract?
There are a couple of limitations at play.
Offensively, scoring is Sexton's best asset. At this stage, it's
his only ++ asset. Sexton's assist numbers are underwhelming based
on the usage. Beyond the counting stats, Sexton's ability to make
reads -- proactive or reactive -- are below what you'd like from an
That can be mitigated to a degree if
you're special as a scorer. Sexton is very good,
but he isn't that. There's low-hanging fruit to be grabbed in
regards to his shot profile. This isn't an anti-mid range argument;
however, Sexton's split between pull-up twos (5.1 attempts) and
threes (4.4 attempts, only 1.9 pull-up attempts) needs to shift a
little. At the rate that he hits those middies, they should be a
counter. Right now, they feel like his diet.
Defensively is where the real issue comes in. Sexton is a
guard's guard in terms of stature (6-foot-1, 190), which limits his
defensive versatility. He simply doesn't have the size or length to
truly bother wings. His screen-navigation issues hinder his
effectiveness as a point-of-attack defender.
Though effort generally isn't an issue, we're three years in and
Sexton still finds himself being washed out by screens pretty
often. He's fine when spinning under a pick; trying to fight over
is, well, let's just call it an adventure.
Add in the emergence of Darius Garland last season, the Cavs'
draft positioning for this year, and the fact that Sexton is up for
a (likely max-level) extension this summer, and you have the
ingredients of a "sell-high" case. You can quibble about if that
would be the right decision to make, but it's at least a
valid option to consider. (And the Cavs shouldn't rush this
decision, as Spencer Davies recently
The purpose of this piece to determine where Sexton could go.
Finding teams that need Sexton's skill set, have the personnel
and/or coaching to mitigate his weaknesses, have the assets to pull
off a deal, and are prepared to pay him wasn't easy. There are
holes to poke, because that's an incredibly tough needle to thread.
But these are the teams, from my view, that could make some sense
TOP SPOT: MIAMI HEAT
Why the Fit Makes Sense
Sexton isn't a strong playmaker? That's fine. Jimmy Butler and
Bam Adebayo are two of the best at their respective
Sexton isn't strong at the point-of-attack? That's fine. Butler
and Adebayo are two of the best helpers in the league, period.
The defensive infrastructure instilled by head coach Erik
Spoelstra is sound, regardless of the multiple coverages thrown
out. They'll switch if necessary, play drop with weakside helpers
pinching in to clutter driving lanes, or scrap all of that to go
What Sexton brings in the scoring department is missing in
Miami. It's not just the rim pressure, though Butler can use a
consistent option to take some of that burden off of him. Sexton
would immediately become Miami's best pull-up threat. Teams can't
duck under picks against Sexton like they can against Butler.
Making the money work is easy. Making the money make
sense for both parties is where this discussion gets
Very loudly, there's a case to be made to make this deal bigger.
Sexton is the headliner of course, but this could be a way for the
Cavaliers to cut ties with Kevin Love. The Heat have the expiring
contracts (Goran Dragic, Andre Iguodala) to get to Love's salary
pretty easily. Add in Tyler Herro, maybe a tertiary asset (KZ
Okpala, anyone?) and boom.
The Heat get their guy in Sexton. They also add a 4 in Love who
can complement Adebayo offensively. A happier and healthier Love
could add some juice to a frontcourt that scrambled for
Adebayo-adjacent pieces for a large portion of last season.
The Cavs get a solid prospect in Herro who provides more
(movement) shooting equity, some secondary playmaking chops to take
some of the creation burden off of Garland, and
also kicks the rookie-extension can down the road for
Dragic solves Cleveland's woeful backup-point-guard situation
for at least half a season; Iguodala can share defensive tricks of
the trade with Isaac Okoro. The books get clearer moving forward,
which matters considering Garland and Larry Nance Jr. will be up
for paydays soon. Everyone wins, right?
Herro is promising, and adds a little bit more size to the
backcourt. He is not as good as Sexton is right now, and the Cavs
would feel the dip in rim pressure between Sexton and Herro. The
added size and help-effectiveness on defense makes the situation
more tenable. It doesn't make it good.
From Miami's side, that is a lot of money to commit. They would
need to throw the bag at Sexton, most likely this summer. They
would have Love's money on the books moving forward. They'd still
need to pay Duncan Robinson, their most prized restricted free
agent and one of the best shooters on the planet. Committing north
of $18 million per year to Robinson, Sexton, Love, Adebayo (whose
max extension kicks in this summer/season), and Butler is
Does that core, and whatever other pieces you add during the
offseason, put Miami on par with Milwaukee or Brooklyn? The best
answer you could give this in good conscious is "maybe."
That "maybe" might be worth it for Miami. And don't forget: this
is a team well-versed in getting off of less-than-favorable
contracts. It hasn't always been pretty, but it's gotten done.
OTHER LANDING SPOTS
I'm intrigued by what a package
centered around a Sexton-Fred VanVleet swap would look like.
If Cleveland is going to commit to a small backcourt, Garland
and VanVleet -- one of the best guard defenders in the sport AND A
SNUB FOR AN ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM THIS SEASON -- would be a high-end
Toronto is in need of a bucket-getter like Sexton, and they
surely have the defensive infrastructure and coaching to limit some
of Sexton's shortcomings.
The issue isn't just the "what else"; it's trying to
decipher who is giving more.
VanVleet is flat-out better and more impactful than Sexton at
this stage, and it's not like VanVleet is an old man. He's 27,
smack dab in the middle of his prime. And again, Sexton is up for a
bag -- a heftier one than VanVleet's.
But Sexton is good, and also five years younger. Not only does
he already boast a tremendous work ethic, Toronto's development
system is among the best in the league. Saying Sexton will eclipse
VanVleet at some point in the near future is not a hot take.
Does Cleveland add a piece (Cedi Osman, for example) to make up
for the current gap in impact? Does Toronto sweeten the pot because
of the age gap and the salary they're sending for this season?
It's hard to envision a scenario in which their first-round
picks (#3 for Cleveland, #4 for Toronto) are offered in any
This feels like a slight no for both sides, but one that isn't
far off from being feasible.
Along the same lines of the VanVleet package, a deal centered
around a Marcus Smart-Sexton swap could be workable. The Celtics
would have to add more here; they have intiguing wing options
(Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith) and nearly all of their
first-rounders available to cobble something together.
New head coach Ime Udoka made a point to emphasize ball movement
during his introductory presser. Let's just say Sexton wouldn't
necessarily solve Boston's playmaking issues.
But Sexton would fit the timeline of The Jay's -- Jayson Tatum
and Jaylen Brown -- and would give Boston another late-game
creator. It's worth looking into.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
They're more of an obligatory mention than a serious suitor.
They don't have the pick capital to move Cleveland. Talen
Horton-Tucker is a good prospect, but he certainly isn't Sexton
Their only avenue would be going the
"we'll-take-Love-off-your-hands-too" route. THT, Kyle Kuzma,
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and a so-far-out-you'll-forget-about-it
first-rounder for Sexton and Love is technically possible; I just
don't see that being enough for Cleveland.