The Cavs seem to be very high on Isaac Okoro in year two.
It’s not up for debate about Isaac Okoro‘s rookie year. It was bad. That doesn’t mean there weren’t elements to really be excited about, but that also doesn’t mean his shortcomings are acceptable. Well, it appears Okoro is taking to heart that he needs to improve elements of his game and has shown great growth. According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, the Cavs development staff, who Fedor calls “highly regarded” despite the team’s struggles to develop players, has worked with Okoro on his jump shot.
"Working with Cleveland’s highly regarded development staff, Okoro has slightly altered his hand placement and release, aiming to get more arc on his iffy jumper. Since college, that’s been the flickering question mark, the foremost piece that will determine whether he becomes the breakout two-way player Cleveland’s staff is forecasting."
Okoro had a solid season scoring in transition but anytime he was forced to shoot a jumper, it was anything but a sure thing, with Okoro missing many open shots. He shot just 29% from three-point, and his mid-range game was even worse. If Okoro wasn’t attacking the basket, 61% from three feet or closer, he was shooting just 24% from three to 16 feet away from the basket. From the range of 10′-16′, he shot just 7.7%.
To say the Cavs were helping Okoro work on his jumper is a misnomer, as that implied he had a jump shot, to begin with.
Isaac Okoro has a long way to go to be a great two-way player
You can certainly give Okoro praise for his efforts last year, as he was a high-energy player in every game he played. Defensively he wasn’t the impactful force marketed to fans and while the defense is far more of a group effort than offense, we saw other players make a far more positive impact on that end of the court all on their own. Some will say that Okoro’s defensive efficiency was hindered due to who was guarding but that’s not an excuse. He was drafted to guard those players specifically. He has to step up and do his job, otherwise, why was he drafted in the first place?
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It’d be no different drafting a home run hitting first basemen in baseball and he doesn’t hit home runs. “Oh, it’s against major league pitching though.” We know, hitting a major league pitcher was kind of the job requirement, if he can’t do that then why was he drafted? The same case for Okoro, if he can’t lock down the best in the league, then why was he drafted? That was his defining characteristic, a trait so good it made him the fifth-best prospect in the draft according to the Cavs.
He better start living up to his draft position.
Suffice it to say, that doesn’t mean he’s a bust. Not yet, anyway. While looking at the 2020 NBA Draft, you can easily see a half-dozen of players you’d rather have now, but Okoro does still have a ceiling he can reach.
There continues to be hope for him heading into 2021. He had a good first game in the 2021 Summer League and if the Cavs give him a few more games, maybe he’ll even make a nice impact but there are already reports he’ll play two, maybe three games most this summer. A shame, really, as Okoro is going to need every minute of competition possible to live up to his draft position of fifth overall.
This summer things appear to be going well for him. The regular season is a different beast entirely, however. A lot of people’s reputations will be on the line when Okoro takes the court in the fall and hopefully, he’s able to put it all together and become the great two-way player that people like the Cavs and Fedor believe he can be.
If not, here’s hoping he’s at least a great defensive player like Bruce Bowen. Minus the dirty play.