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2017 Free Agent Rankings: Shooting Guards

Dennis Chambers breaks down the potential group of free agent shooting guards.

Dennis Chambers

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As the NBA season starts to wind down and the playoff bracket begins to shape itself, teams start targeting the areas of their roster that need to be improved. Some teams naturally need more than others since only one Larry O’Brien trophy is handed out each season, though even the league’s elite teams are always looking to add pieces and retool as well.

So, as the offseason quickly approaches and with free agency looming here is a look at the top available shooting guards that could be looking to add a backcourt punch to teams of all competition levels.

Tier 1:

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — Restricted Free Agent

The top free-agent in this season’s shooting guard class, Caldwell-Pope is in the last year of his rookie deal with the Detroit Pistons, and he’s putting together a season that should have them thinking long and hard about offering him a max-contract extension.

By improving his 3-point shooting to a very respectable 37 percent this season, Caldwell-Pope officially entered into the realm of a high-level “3-and-D” wing player that is so coveted throughout the NBA. At 6-foot-5 and utilizing his 6-foot-8 wingspan, Caldwell-Pope has turned into a pest on the defensive wing.

Over the last two seasons, Caldwell-Pope has posted defensive win share numbers of 2.7 and 2.2. His ability to impact the defensive end of the court is what makes him so valuable moving forward. Coupled with his increased efficiency on the offensive end — converting a career-high 64 percent of shots within three feet of the rim — Caldwell-Pope could continue to legitimize himself as a two-way player.

On top of it all, he’s still just 24 years old. There’s plenty of time left in his career. That paired with his potential could likely land him a big dollar offer sheet should the Pistons decide to let him test the market.

J.J. Redick — Unrestricted Free Agent

Chris Paul’s backcourt running mate is set to hit the free agent pool. After carving out a niche in Los Angeles with the Clippers it’s hard to see Redick walking away. But crazier things have happened in free agency.

Redick’s skill as a perimeter scorer is an integral part of the Clippers’ offense. Averaging 14.7 points per game this season, slightly down from last year’s, Redick is still in line with his career average 41 percent 3-point shooting clip.

With Doc Rivers’ offense navigated by Paul, and two elite big men in Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin, a knockdown kick out option is crucial to their success. Unless the 32-year-old Redick receives a whopping offer from another team desperate for shooters, expect him back in L.A.

Dwyane Wade — Player Option

After turning 35 this past January, Wade certainly isn’t the youngest option on the market. But the longtime Miami HEAT star is enjoying a resurgence season in his first year with the Chicago Bulls.

Averaging 18.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game Wade is showing that he’s still got some gas left in the tank. With his athleticism not at the level it once was, Wade has looked this season to refine his shooting form. As a result, he’s connecting on 31.5 percent of his shots from 3-point range. This isn’t the best percentage in the league by any means, but it is the most efficient Wade has shot from downtown since the 2008-09 season when he hit 31.7 of his shots from beyond the arc.

However, it would be a long shot to expect Wade to hit the open market. After being shut down for the season on March 15 with a sprain and fracture in his right elbow, Wade will enter this offseason with a $23.8 million player option. Coming off an injury and with his age no secret around the league, it would be unlikely Wade gets that type of value in another deal.

Tier 2:

Dion Waiters — Player Option

From the former shooting guard in Miami to the current one. Waiters is currently enjoying the strongest overall season of his career in South Beach.

Since Jan. 17, the HEAT are an NBA-best 23-5, and in large part because of Waiters’ play. Over that span, the Philadelphia native is averaging 18.4 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game. Waiters’ spike in production is partly a result of his hot-streak 3-point shooting; he’s connecting on 44 percent of his three’s over the HEAT’s run.

The hot play from Waiters has propelled Miami from the league’s basement to vying for a playoff berth. It’s also potentially propelling Waiters into a pay raise. Currently, Waiters will have a player option at the end of the season worth $3 million. Should his play continue and the HEAT find themselves playing postseason basketball, Waiters could be in line for a bigger deal from Miami. Or he could take his talents out of South Beach and to the highest bidder on the free market.

Tim Hardaway Jr. — Restricted Free Agent

After spending his first two seasons with the New York Knicks, Hardaway Jr. is using the final season of his rookie contract to flourish with the Atlanta Hawks.

Hardaway Jr. is averaging 13.9 points in just 25.9 minutes per game as a key reserve for the playoff-bound Hawks. Along with upping his scoring output, he also is producing career-highs in nearly every other offensive statistical category as well. Playing a legitimate role on a playoff team certainly doesn’t hurt your value, and should Hardaway Jr. have a strong showing in the postseason, it’s reasonable to see him command a good contract from the Hawks.

The opposite side of the coin in that scenario, though, would be Hardaway Jr. playing well enough convince another club to pay him more than Atlanta — who will commit $16.9 million to Kent Bazemore next season — would be willing to offer. Either way, Hardaway Jr. has produced enough to the level that he will be a popular option on the market this summer.

Sean Kilpatrick — Team Option

Perhaps the player on this list who’s helped himself the most over the last season and a half is Kilpatrick. Discarded in the league as a journeyman and near wash-out, Kilpatrick found new life in Brookly,n where he’s been one of the Nets’ few consistently good players. He’s owed $1.5 million next season, but the money isn’t guaranteed.

After putting together the season Kilpatrick has — 13.3 points, 4 rebounds and 34 percent 3-point shooting per game — finding another dotted line to sign and extend his stay in the NBA won’t be a hard task to accomplish should he find himself in the free-agent pool.

Tier 3:

Tyreke Evans — Unrestricted Free Agent

Following the DeMarcus Cousins-to-New Orleans trade, Evans found himself back where it all started in Sacramento. This time, the 6-foot-6 guard arrives with much less hype.

Seven years have passed since Evans turned in that 20/5/5 rookie year that only LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Robertson accomplished as rookies up until that point. Since then, Evans has generally regressed in each of his statistical categories. Regardless, he has been a fairly productive player when on the court.

Health issues will always be a concern for Evans, who’s never registered a full 82-game season during his career. But by fashioning himself into a decent 3-point shooter over the last two seasons (37 percent compared to 27 percent in his first six seasons) Evans should be able to provide a nice bench scoring option for some team this summer.

Kyle Korver — Unrestricted Free Agent

A true one-trick pony, Korver’s ability to consistently shoot well from beyond the arc will allow him to find a job in NBA with relative ease.

How Korver impacts the Cleveland Cavaliers this June in the playoffs should determine whether General Manager David Griffin inks him to a new deal. But considering the Cavs gave up a first-round pick for Korver back in January, it would be wise to imagine Korver back in Cleveland.

Gerald Henderson — Team Option

Henderson made a hometown return to Philadelphia last summer to provide some veteran presence to a 76ers roster that desperately needed it. He’s owed $9 million next season, but due to Philadelphia’s desolate backcourt situation plus plenty of cap space, Henderson should most likely be retained.

However, should he hit the open market, Henderson can provide a team with a solid two-way option off the bench.

Nick Young — Player Option

Swaggy P could find himself shopping around for another team to bring his scoring and swag to this summer.

With an option of $5.6 million on the table for Young to pick up, his decision will ultimately come down to what the Los Angeles Lakers do in the NBA Draft. Should they draft another guard like Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz, Young could be on the outside looking in for meaningful minutes in an already-crowded backcourt.

While the money is good for Young in Los Angeles, he can still provide productive minutes and scoring for many teams throughout the league. If he decides to turn down his option, he should have no trouble latching on to a team as a bench scorer.

Vince Carter — Unrestricted Free Agent

At 40 years old, Carter continues to elude father time. The eight-time All-Star is averaging 24 minutes a game, his most since 2013-14, so even at his advanced age Carter is providing a decent amount of play for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Hitting an open market at 40 should be interesting for Carter. He’s shown he can still play, and has transformed his once high-flying offensive repertoire into a decent shooting game. Carter also still brings a positive defensive box plus/minus to the table.

Whether Memphis decides to bring him back or not may depend slightly on what they do with the next man on our list, and whether or not Carter chooses to retire.

Tier 4:

Tony Allen — Unrestricted Free Agent

One of his generation’s best perimeter defenders, Allen is still very productive at age 35. Averaging 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds a game, Allen can do more than just guard the opposing team’s best wing player.

But he’s still pretty good at that too. A defensive box plus/minus of 2.6 shows Allen is still doing more than his fair share on the defensive end of the court. It will be interesting to see how the Memphis Grizzlies handle both Allen and Carter. Should they let Allen walk, his numbers this season prove he can still contribute solid production to a potential contender looking to add a veteran glue guy.

Manu Ginobili — Unrestricted Free Agent

There’s a slim-to-none chance Ginobili walks from San Antonio to another team. At 39 years old and after spending every season with the Spurs, including those four championship seasons, it’s hard to see the Argentina native on another team.

Should the near impossible happen and Ginobili chooses a new home over San Antonio and retirement, a team will surely give him a look based strictly off name value.

Ben McLemore — Restricted Free Agent

Failing to live up to the hype after being drafted No. 7 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, McLemore is nearing the end of his rookie contract with the Sacramento Kings.

Despite averaging just 7.2 points a game, McLemore has averaged a career-high 39 percent shooting from beyond the arc. That bright spot alone could warrant the Kings extending McLemore a $5.3 million qualifying offer to see if he can make another jump in improvement next season.

If not, another team could take a chance on an underachieving high draft pick at a low price. Should McLemore suddenly live up to his initial expectations, the signing would be considered a home run.

Shabazz Muhammad — Restricted Free Agent

Muhammad is in a similar situation to McLemore, although he’s been slightly more productive.

At 24 years old, Muhammad is a nice young piece for a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves, but their roster is already relatively stacked at the wing positions. Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Tyus Jones all get minutes at various backcourt spots. So it will be up to the Timberwolves if they want to invest money into Muhammad.

Should he walk, some team would benefit from giving him a shot at a fairly cheap deal.

Dennis Chambers is an NBA writer in his first season with Basketball Insiders. Based out of Philadelphia he has previously covered NCAA basketball and high school recruiting.

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Who The NBA’s Top Road Warriors?

Jordan Hicks takes a look at the teams boasting the top-five road records in the league and breaks down what makes them so good away from home.

Jordan Hicks

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Winning in the NBA is not easy by any means — but a victory on the road is almost more valuable than one at home. Maybe not as far as standings are concerned, but road wins are harder to come by in the league. Being able to get victories away from home can shoot your team up the standings faster than anything else.

Each year there are new teams that impress. Whether it’s expected franchises such as those led by LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard — superstars with historically great track records, rosters that must do so to meet lofty expectations. But there are always surprise newcomers such as the Miami HEAT or the Dallas Mavericks, too. Either way, a large chunk of those aforementioned team’s success relies heavily upon their ability to get wins on the road.

Who are the best road warriors this year? What teams are posting the highest records away from their home cities at the halfway point? Basketball Insiders takes a look at the top five teams in that realm, plus points to certain reasons they may be finding success.

No. 1: Los Angeles Lakers (19-4)

This first one should come as no surprise. For one, they are led by LeBron James. Secondly, they are co-led by Anthony Davis. Do you even need a third reason?

Listen, everyone thought the Lakers would be good. But did anyone think they’d be this dominant and click this fast? Honestly, high-five if so. But it’s not just those two that are doing all the work. Players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are thriving, Dwight Howard is having a mini-resurgence, Kyle Kuzma is playing for his roster spot and Rajon Rondo is still dishing dimes at a high rate – though not as high as King James.

LeBron is averaging 26 points, 10.9 assists and 8.4 rebounds on the road, almost a triple-double. Davis is just behind scoring-wise at 25.9 points and almost a double-double with 9.2 rebounds. Kuzma is shooting 47.2 percent from the field and scoring just over 15 a game and, most surprisingly, leading the team in plus-minus at a plus-7.1.

With multiple road-wins against the Mavericks — and one each over the Miami HEAT, the Utah Jazz, and the Denver Nuggets — what’s not to appreciate? The Lakers appear to be the clear front runner in the Western Conference and their impressive road record is a large reason why.

No. 2: Milwaukee Bucks (18-4)

On top of the road-win totem with the Lakers sits the Milwaukee Bucks. They’ve been every bit as dominating as the Lakers, which is helped, in part, to the much-weaker bottom of the Eastern Conference. But this by no means is a knock on their talent level. Just like the Lakers are the current kings of the West, the Bucks are dominating the East.

Giannis Antetokounmpo appears ready to secure his second consecutive MVP award. He’s even more dominant than he was last year and he’s finally shooting the three at a respectable clip.

While Antetokounmpo’s numbers seem to be pretty steady overall when compared to his road numbers, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton both see a bump in production when playing away from their home arena. Although the Bucks have an insanely-impressive point differential of plus-13.8 at home, it dips to just plus-11.4 when they play on the road. This is a true testament to their consistency as they travel.

The Bucks appear to lack the road-win resume that the Lakers bolster, but with solid wins against the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets, they can clearly take care of business against evenly-matched opponents.

No. 3: Dallas Mavericks (14-5)

By far and large the biggest surprise this NBA season has been the Mavericks. A few smart people probably had them penciled in as a surprise eighth-seed, but it’s almost a guarantee no one had them in as a playoff lock as early as December.

The reason they’re playing so well? Luka Doncic. He’s only half an assist away from averaging a triple-double on the road and he’s scoring more to boot. In fact, the Mavericks are averaging just 115.1 points at home compared to a whopping 118.6 on the road.

What’s even crazier is the fact that Dallas’ offensive rating while on the road not only leads the NBA — it’s over four full points greater than the Lakers at No. 2. The gap between them and second place is as big as the space between Los Angeles and the eleventh-ranked team.

The Mavericks boast quite the slate of road wins including the Nuggets, Lakers, Bucks, Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, you read all those names right. One thing is for certain, the Mavericks will be a nightmare for whoever has to play them in the playoffs – regardless of seeding.

No. 4: Toronto Raptors (14-7)

You would think that after Kawhi Leonard’s departure that the Raptors would have slightly folded, but they’ve almost picked up right where they left off. Sure, Leonard’s absence was going to leave some sort of void, but it’s amazing just how well Toronto has fared this season.

They boast the second-best road defense with a rating of 102.7, just behind the Bucks. They also have the fourth-best net rating away from home.

The three-headed monster of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry has been as effective on the road as it has been at home. Thanks to the ever-improving play of Siakam, Toronto should comfortably find themselves with home-court advantage come playoff time. They might not have what it takes to repeat as champions, but they’re absolutely going to make life tough for whomever they end up facing.

Solid road wins against the Boston Celtics and Lakers certainly look impressive on the resume, but they’ll need to continue to improve as a unit if they want to make any noise in the playoffs.

No. 5: Denver Nuggets (13-7)

The Nuggets are having an interesting season. Gary Harris hasn’t been playing well at all, Jamal Murray hasn’t been turning heads either, but Nikola Jokic is still feasting on any opposing center thrown his way.

The biggest surprise so far? The stellar play of second-year rookie Michael Porter Jr. He’s only averaging about 15 minutes per game but, on the road, he’s scoring 8.3 points per game on 56 percent from the field and 51.6 percent from three. His NBA sample sizes aren’t quite big enough yet, but it’s becoming more and more clear just how good he’ll become.

Despite no one else on the roster improving much from last season, the Nuggets still find themselves in the upper-echelon of the Western Conference — and their stellar road play is a major reason. With solid road-wins against the Lakers, Mavericks and Indiana Pacers, the Nuggets are primed to finish the second half of the season strong. If Porter Jr. continues to improve and see expanded minutes, Denver could turn into a real threat out west.

All the teams on this list have been pretty impressive up to this point in the season, but there is still a long way to go. Will the Bucks or Lakers get dethroned as the road warriors of their respective conferences? Only time will tell.

But if one thing is certain in the NBA, road wins are no “gimmes,” regardless of opponent. The above teams all deserve their rightful spot on this midseason list. How many will remain come April?

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The Next Frontier in Basketball: Results-Based Mindfulness

Jake Rauchbach outlines how firing and rewiring the brain’s neuro-networks via Brain-Based Training – Player Development is the next frontier in basketball.

Jake Rauchbach

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The mind cannot tell the difference between what’s being experienced in real life and what is deliberately being visualized within the constructs of the mind. High-Performers have intuitively known this.

Science is now showing this. The brain has the ability to affect physiology and improve motor skill sets without lifting a finger.

For example, through visualizing desired outcomes, a person can rewire new neuro-networks (or pathways) in the brain, requisite for acquiring optimal motor function skills. This is based upon contemporary brain-based research.

The implications of these developments on the player development and performance space could be massive. Before we dive further into how, let’s first cover some foundational brain mechanics.

The Brain’s Neuro-Networks

According to some of the latest Epigenetic and neuroscience work by Dr. Joe Dispenza, the brain is comprised of a multitude of neuro-networks.

Neuro-networks are informational highways that transfer both information and commands. These networks are wired and rewired based upon our most consistent habits and behaviors.

According to Dispenza, people can upshift physiology, performance and career success through applying High-Performance Mindfulness techniques that rewire the brain’s neuro-networks.

Employing consistent visualization helps to fire and/or rewire these neuro-networks to more efficiently execute the specific task at hand. Additionally, employing leading-edge High-Performance methods takes this one step further by supercharging the process.

Current Approaches

The current player development landscape generally leaves out likely the most important element of unlocking human potential and high-performance, the impact that systematically firing and rewiring neuro-networks in the brain has on statistical improvement.

This approach is much like honing muscle memory in a very specific, supercharged way, weeding out unproductive subconscious programs while installing productive programs, having the effect of boosting physiology, focus and, of course, performance.

Probably the most leading-edge and powerful way to do this is through the implementation of Brain-Based – Player Development methods. These methods can be applied for performance optimization and in the injury recovery process. More on performance in a minute, but first, let’s look at the recovery piece.

High-Performance Mindfulness for Injury Recovery

According to Dr. Milo Sewards, Head Orthopedic Surgeon of Temple University Athletics, one of the biggest areas that is left unaddressed during the rehabilitation process is the unhealed psychosomatic element. This is especially true after players are cleared to physically play.

“Players have to be able to clear that final mental hurdle that prevents them from being able to get back to not just participating but performing,” Sewards says.

According to Dr. Sewards, tools like this are a powerful way to address these issues.

“I have seen some incredible things happen, some efficacy with these techniques, and getting some guys back from injuries with these techniques back to a very high level of performance,” he says. “I would love to see all of this take off and be widely accepted.”

Empirical Evidence

High-Performance tools addressing the mental hurdles that Dr. Sewards mentions above have been shown to quickly and effectively eliminate leftover psychosomatic elements from past injuries, but that is not all.

Take, for example, a study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology in 1992, where three test groups were used. Group No. 1 employed five, one-hour physical workout sessions per week for four weeks to improve arm strength. The second group just mentally rehearsed the same arm exercise that Group 1 did, without physically lifting a finger. Control groups did not exercise their arm or mind.

As you would expect, at the end of four weeks, Group 1 exhibited a 30% increase in muscle strength. But get this, the group that purely mentally rehearsed the exercise without any physical training, displayed a 22% increase in muscle strength!

Fascinating stuff, right? Another study, performed by Harvard researchers, took a group and divided it in half. One group practiced a five-finger piano exercise, two hours a day for five days. The other group’s members mentally rehearsed the exercise as if they were sitting at the piano without physically moving their fingers in any way.

Brain scans of both groups after the exercise revealed that they created a significant amount of neural activity. The group’s brain scan that only visualized the outcome was very similar to the group that had physically rehearsed.

There is big-time relevance here in regards to helping players improve.

Science continues to show that there are tangible improvements and progression taking place through Rep’ing the mind in a very specific way.

Optimizing Load Management

Efficient workflows are valued over old paradigm, sheer workload routines like never before. This is part of the reason why Load Management has become a priority. Career longevity and injury prevention have moved to the center.

Brain Psychology Player Development, that allows players the chance to improve on-court performance and physiology without increasing repetition of physical wear and tear, is an extremely valuable organizational asset.

Methods that optimize mental focus, emotional dissonance and statistical performance, without increasing the physical load on the body, are at a premium. For these reasons, combined with the scientific efficacy mentioned above, there could be a perfect storm brewing for massive market disruption.

The work-harder-for-longer model of player development is not resonating with the players as it once did. Combine this with leading-edge techniques shared within coming online, and the standard practices of improving basketball performance could change quickly. Players such as Aaron Gordon, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are infusing their routines with mind-based methods.

Considering that very few teams currently employ these methods in a systematic or customized fashion, there exists a HUGE opportunity for those forward-thinking organizations.

Optimizing On-Court Statistical Performance

High-Performance – Player Development Coaches have been showing that these methods influence on-court statistics upwards.

Case studies showing 10%, 20%, 30% and sometimes 40% improvement in the same season, have become routine and commonplace for the professional, national team and college players who trust and employ these processes.

You may want to read The Next Step in Player Development and How to Improve Shooting Percentages Installments. I discuss this at more length there.

Both players highlighted below experienced improvement in no less than five statistical areas in the course of the same season after implementation of mind-based methods. Here are examples of players describing how this work positively affected their game:

FIBA Cup, Daequan Cook: https://vimeo.com/361200434

FIBA Cup Captain, Tal Dunne: https://vimeo.com/322145121

In Closing

For players and teams looking to gain a distinct edge in the development & performance space, the most efficient way to do this is through employing systematic processes that fire and rewire subconscious neuro-networks and produce high-performance.

Mind-based methods have been shown time and time again to facilitate this.

Based on growing empirical evidence, results and social proof, the next frontier in basketball could be mind-body methods that unlock performance.

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NBA Daily: Collin Sexton’s Reading And Reacting A Work In Progress

Spencer Davies looks at Collin Sexton’s recent trends since the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Jordan Clarkson and his progression over the team’s last five games, including a long road trip against strong competition.

Spencer Davies

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Year 2 in the NBA can be just as much of a challenge as a rookie season.

On one hand, your expectations rise — individually and team-wise. On the other, 29 teams key-in on tendencies through film study.

They’ll make adjustments to ensure you don’t get to your usual spots, forcing you to find a way to counteract. They’ll sniff out what makes you tick on the defensive end and gameplan ways to make you uncomfortable. And if you’re a shooter, they’ll contest and close-out harder than you’ve ever experienced.

In-house, things change. The roster is never exactly the same. Sometimes, there’s a lot of turnover in that department. Heck, you might have a new role and new coaching staff to learn from — and in some cases, your front office could be undergoing a shift.

Such factors can send a confident young player into the doldrums of a sophomore slump, a phenomenon that isn’t picky about choosing who, and when, to strike.

Entering the season, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton was a prime candidate to fall into this trap. With John Beilein making the jump from college to pro as his new head coach, No. 5 overall pick Darius Garland entering the mix as the team’s proverbial shiny new toy and All-Star big man Kevin Love fully healthy after an injury-plagued year, there were plenty of reasons to think that Sexton may go through some regression.

Following a blazing start from deep and continuing the momentum he established as a rookie, Sexton looked as if he began to hit a wall. In the second half of November and all of December, he went absolutely ice cold. And as a player that thrives as a natural scorer in attack mode, he reverted back to his negative tendencies — driving into trees with nowhere to go, turning the ball over due to poor decision-making and playing one vs. all-type basketball.

Sexton’s momentum picked up again, however, when Beilein staggered him and his starting backcourt partner’s minutes. Garland and the then-healthy Kevin Porter Jr. developed a chemistry on the floor that allowed for consistent ball movement to find the next guy. In an effort to experiment with different rotations, Sexton saw time with a mixture of lineups where he was a facilitator, yet he shared that role with Jordan Clarkson, a microwave-scoring sixth man with a similar style of play.

On Dec. 23, the Cavaliers parted ways with Clarkson via a trade with the Utah Jazz in exchange for little-used former 2014 fifth overall pick Dante Exum. The goal of this deal was not only to bring in a reclamation project in Exum, but to open up minutes for the squad’s younger, inexperienced players — Porter, Garland and Sexton — in key moments. And since this all went down, Sexton has been on the come up, slowly but surely.

Over the course of the year, Sexton’s had a floater down pat to finish over the top of defending bigs. He’s had to have that tool in his arsenal, too, because the NBA’s best shot-blockers have been feasting on his drives inside. Fear The Sword’s Justin Rowan astutely points out the number of shots the 21-year-old has had swatted away vs. the number of assists he’s given out (quite a disturbing ratio), which beckons the argument of him being a bad passer while simultaneously making bad decisions to challenge guys with almost a foot more of height.

These are valid concerns and will continue to be as long as it doesn’t change. Forcing the issue with your head down in a lose-lose situation can’t work in this league. At the same time, we also have to remember he’s still an inexperienced player navigating his way through his second season. Plus, from the point Clarkson was moved, Sexton’s scoring average is an encouraging 22.3 points per game on 46.1 percent from the field and 41.9 beyond the arc.

“Just reading and reacting. Especially like, we go over a lot of pick-and-roll stuff in practice, so I’m starting to just understand where I get my shots and stuff,” Sexton said Wednesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

Due to the success of that aforementioned floater, teams are prepared to pack the paint when they see Sexton going inside with a head of steam. Beilein’s noticed most of his players’ difficulty in seeing who’s out on the perimeter while maintaining eyes on the rim.

Though he’s still had bad moments in numerous situations to try and finish over multiple defenders, Sexton has seemed to discover a solution.

“When it’s like that, I’ve just got to make sure I keep spraying out and keep trying to get assists for my teammates. And making the right play, don’t try to force anything,” Sexton said. “If I don’t have it, then make the right play and hopefully my teammates knock it down.

“It’s tough,” Sexton admitted. “Just because at the last second, they might slide over and then I may have to pump a little bit and then pass it. But it’s tough. I’ve just got to make the right play. If I feel like I have the floater, just float it and don’t even think about it.”

It’s even tougher with Cleveland’s current roster, which isn’t exactly built for catch-shooting and hesitates to take them. There are only a handful of perimeter shooters — Love, Garland, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr. — that the team can depend on. This goes without mentioning a sub-30 percent conversion rate that his teammates have when they attempt a triple off of one of Sexton’s passes. Maybe they aren’t put in the best spots or aren’t spacing the floor well-enough to help his case. Regardless, those shots have to fall.

As Garland’s confidence as a floor general has increased, so has his usage, leading Beilein to play Sexton off the ball, a role that the coaching staff believes suits his game despite necessary adjustments to get him to that point. We saw a different version of Sexton last week on the road — and even early on Monday in a 106-86 clunker against the New York Knicks.

“What we’ve been telling Collin is, he creates so much attention and can score the ball at such a high clip that so much is going to be there for him,” Love said of Sexton at Thursday’s morning shootaround. “He’s so fast, he can get into the paint so well and he puts such pressure on the defense — just looking at where he can make reads, that’s a combination of film, a combination of a willingness to find guys and just picking it apart and seeing it.

“He’s done a lot better job. (There were) a couple of quarters, a few halves where he was able to really see what he was capable of and setting up his teammates and then the game just opened up for him, and I think that’s going to continue to happen for him…He’s only going to get better.”

Perhaps his role should be brought up as well. Sexton isn’t a traditional point guard, as detractors would like to use against him when bringing up assist numbers. Rather, he’s a score-first combo player that Beilein wants to see continue hunting for buckets. That should not excuse hurtful mistakes during the course of games, though, and both the player and the coach know it.

“Just try not to force it. If it’s not there, don’t even pass it,” Sexton said. “If it’s like in-between, don’t even try to force it or anything like that. So we’ve just got to make the right passes when it comes to that. (Stop) trying to make the hero pass, maybe like a no-look or a little pocket pass when you don’t got to force it, you’ve just got to make the right play.”

In three of the last five games, Sexton’s dished out at least four assists. Sure, it’s a meager number to some, but it’s still progression — especially for somebody who’s spending time getting to his spots without the ball in his hands. When he’s brought it up the floor to start games, there’s been a concerted effort to find Love and others on the perimeter. The sooner Sexton realizes the ball will come back to him after initiating an action of some sort, the better off he and the Cavaliers will be.

“I think he’s seeing it,” Beilein said of Sexton’s vision. “I think we all will go back to our instincts, especially in tough times and he’s getting better at understanding that, because we want him to keep trying to score, now. He’s got really good 2-point numbers in some situations. It’s that fine line for him to discern, ‘Is this the best shot, is this the best play?’ And he’s very receptive of learning that.”

There seems to be a common misconception that Sexton doesn’t want to pass the ball. Should we really buy that? Or should it be taken in consideration that:

Cleveland is telling him to be the hunter? That he legitimately doesn’t see his teammates with defenses hounding him in the moment? That he doesn’t want to push his own possible limitations? That there’s not too much strength behind those passes in the first place?

These sound like excuses, yes, but if you counted how many times Sexton’s said “caught in-between” this year, you might be able to see it from that perspective. When you overdrive into traffic, you usually get into trouble. There have been quite a few instances where he, and Garland, have put themselves into a winless predicament. That shouldn’t be seen as somebody who will never get it. It should be seen as one-half of a combined 40-year-old backcourt with less than two seasons of experience trying to figure things out.

“It’s the NBA. You have to adjust,” Sexton said. “That’s how it is. You have to make sure you do that on the fly. And when it’s like that, you’ve got to really lock-in and really focus on different players and making sure you’re reading them.”

As Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor asked a local frustrated fan, “Why do we take near-20-point scorers who just turned 21 for granted and say, ‘Well those guys are a dime a dozen?’”

(If you’d like a personal opinion on that, refer to this Tweet.)

It’d be foolish to say that these same miscues won’t repeat themselves. It’s bound to happen with the high usage he has on this team. He has to be better, and he has to be smarter.  However, if the progression comes in those areas little by little, then Sexton’s development will still be right on track regarding this embryonic point of his career.

You can demand that he uses his quick burst of speed and knack for getting into the paint to get others involved, but you can’t act as if points don’t matter — even if it’s not by the most efficient means of scoring. Some guys aren’t aggressive without being told to be. He is not one of those players because failure isn’t a fear of his.

His work ethic is matched by few. His desire to be great is palpable. His attitude is exceptional.

Sexton broke out with loads of confidence in the second half of his rookie campaign.

If history repeats itself, Cleveland will have to acknowledge Young Bull’s sophomore surge.

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