Cavs Future Series: Collin Sexton

(Photo by Erik Drost)

Player Overview

Collin Sexton is a 22-year-old, 6’1.5”, 183lbs combo guard for the Cavs. He was drafted 8th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft as the pick obtained from the Nets via the Celtics as part of the Kyrie Irving trade. He will become a restricted free agent following the upcoming season. Sexton averaged 24.3 points per game, which ranked 18th in the NBA. He also averaged 4.4 assists per game, which was 44th in the NBA. He averaged 3.1 rebounds, 2.8 turnovers, 1.0 steals, and 0.2 blocks per game. His assist to turnover ratio was 1.57, he had a 57.3% true shooting percentage, and a -9.2 net rating. He ranked 106th in nba.com‘s Player Impact Estimate (PIE) at 11.5. He had a player efficiency rating (PER) of 18.06 which ranks 54th according to espn.com. His PER has increased from 12.10 his rookie year. PIE has defensive metrics in it while PER does not, which is why Sexton, a player who is effective offensively but struggles defensively, is rated higher by PER than by PIE.
cleaningtheglass.com has Sexton’s usage rating increasing from 25.6% his rookie season to 29.6% this past season, with increased points per shot attempt as well, from 1.026 to 1.156, which is 33rd to 71st percentile among combo guards. According to nbcsportsedge.com, Sexton attempted 18.4 field goals per game, 4.4 of which were threes, shooting 47.5% from the field and 37.1% from three. In his career, he is shooting 45.8% from the field and 38.5% from three. Given his decent three-point percentage, a higher field goal percentage would be expected.

Shooting

Cleaningtheglass.com gives Sexton’s shooting breakdowns. Sexton makes 61% of his shots at the rim, which makes up 34% of his shots taken, which are 64th and 83rd percentile respectively. Sexton was assisted on 55% of his shots at the rim, which is just the 25th percentile among combo guards, meaning he is shooting an above-average finisher while creating an above-average amount of those shots himself. Sexton makes 44% of his shots from mid-range, which is 64th percentile, but shot 44% of his shots from there, which is 93rd percentile. Just 31% of those mid-range makes were assisted, which is 46th percentile, Generally, mid-range jumpers aren’t assisted on, and Sexton is no exception, which makes an already inefficient shot even more ineffective. This high percentage of shots taken is a large part of his lower field goal percentage. If he can decrease the frequency of mid-range jumpers, as well as go from above-average to good in terms of shooting efficiency, he can not only greatly increase his field goal percentage, but also his true shooting percentage. He makes 38.5% of his threes on his career, which ranks in the 50th percentile, but he is assisted on 68% of those, which is the 76th percentile. Given him being an average shooter for combo guards with most of his threes being assisted on, his three-point shot is also a key area for him to improve.

Playmaking

The Cavaliers average 90.3 points per 100 possessions in the half-court (16th percentile for combo guards), of which they were in 80.9% of the time (46th percentile) according to cleaningtheglass.com. The half-court offense will be lower for any Cavs player given the lack of surrounding talent, but it should be better than that, but it is representative of Sexton’s struggles with passing and creating for others, which after defense is the most needed area of improvement. In terms of his playmaking, his assist percentage has increased from 15.4% to 21.8%, which is a jump from the 4th percentile to the 64th percentile. This is a massive jump and shows promise going forward. His assist to usage rate has also increased from 0.6 to 0.74 despite a significant increase in usage. His turnover rate has slightly decreased, going from 12.3% to 11.7%, both of which are middle of the road.

Defense

Defensively, Sexton is still not a proficient on-ball defender. He does have the length necessary despite only being 6’1.5”, given his 6’7.25” wingspan and an 8’2.5” standing reach. The +5.75” wingspan helps with getting into passing lanes, and the standing reach is below average but still should be enough to contest shots decently well for a guard. It is definitely on the lower end, but there are guards with even shorter standing reaches that can be proficient defensively.

Sexton’s Role

Sexton is a starting-caliber player with the upside to be more. As it currently stands, his number one weakness is his defense, especially if he is to continue playing next to Garland. Coming out, his defensive upside was thought to be better than what he currently is playing at, and improvement is possible. His playmaking still needs to improve a good amount despite significant improvements already. This need could also be alleviated by putting him next to an elite playmaker. His shooting still needs improvement despite being above average. If he is to be a key player for a team’s offense, shooting threes off the dribble is a necessary component, and he currently mainly shoots catch and shoot. Again, if he is put with an elite playmaker, this would not be an issue given he would play mainly off-ball. His shot selection needs to improve as well. Cutting out the massive amount of mid-range pull-ups would be very beneficial in helping Sexton operate efficiently in the half-court. Sexton does well finishing despite his size. Sexton is solid at catch-and-shoot three-pointers and plays with a lot of effort.

Sexton’s Future

Sexton’s best fit is most likely not with Garland unless both can improve defensively and also as playmakers. Given Sexton’s impending restricted free agency after this next season, the Cavs need to make a decision sooner rather than later. They are in a great position to replace one of them, especially if Evan Mobley goes at 2 to the Rockets. That would leave both Jalen Suggs and Jalen Green on the board. Suggs could fit with either guard and would be best with Sexton given his off-ball ability, while Green does not fit as well with either, but does fit better with Garland. If they were to go in a different direction such as Scottie Barnes or Jonathan Kuminga, or if Evan Mobley were to still be on the board, they could begin to build the team around the backcourt pairing of Garland and Sexton. Barnes would add the playmaking that both guards lack while being a quality defender at multiple positions. Kuminga has perhaps the highest upside in the draft. Mobley can be a high-quality big man for the Cavs. The decision on what to make of Sexton isn’t easy but needs to be made before the draft. He provides a lot of positives, but still has work to do, but if he can improve upon his weaknesses could eventually be an All-Star caliber player. More likely than not, Sexton will be a long-time quality starter in the NBA and is very valuable. However, he is not the type of player who can be the main guy on a championship team, and therefore, if the Cavaliers believe in one of the guards in this draft as that type of player, they should be willing to move on. If the fit between their draftee and Sexton can work, he is worth keeping, and his value would be hard to get back in a trade package that would work well for the Cavaliers. If they draft Jalen Green, who would play shooting guard for the Cavs as well, they can move Sexton to the bench, but at that point trading him would be the best option given they have to pay him soon and he would still get plus-starter money. The decision should be to draft the best player available and deal with the consequences of the fit after the fact. If the Cavs believe that player to be anyone except for Jalen Green, there is no reason to get rid of a good player in Sexton. Sexton’s future with the Cavaliers is dependent on who they draft in the upcoming draft.

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