Former Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach Ty Lue said this season won’t be measured in wins and losses, but rather “wins and lessons.” With that in mind, and in honor of his memory, WFNY is going to follow along with what we learn every week.
Like most students during Thanksgiving break, the Cavaliers avoided any lessons and instead spent their weekend going streaking. A close loss to the Lakers on LeBron’s return to the Q last Wednesday felt like a moral victory on an emotional night. What no one saw coming was it springboarding the Cavs into wins against the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets over the weekend.
So what did we learn?
Hot Sexton. Collin Sexton excelled in the starting role, averaging 19.6 points. His usage rate (percent of possessions that ended in a shot, free throw, or turnover by that player while on the floor) ticks up from 22 percent to 25 percent and his true shooting (a shooting stat that attempts to weight threes and free throws in overall scoring efficiency) jumps from 52 percent (below league average) to 57 percent (super fun and awesome!).
Not all a bed of roses. While the excitement is warranted, there are some concerns. Sexton is doing most of his damage in the mid-range, an area that is difficult to sustain efficiency. He is hoisting 4.6 shots between 16 and 24 feet per game, a number that would have led the league last year. And that’s in only 27 minutes per game. He is having some success in this range, hitting 42 percent of his looks, but it would still be preferable to see him attacking the rim. Long-term to be a viable lead guard, he’ll need to draw free throws to maintain this level of efficiency, and he can’t do that until he shows what he did in college and summer league; relentless attacking defenders at the hoop and seeking out contact.
Long-term relationship. But there are also some very encouraging signs. While Sexton won’t shoot 46 percent from three forever, his success on those 16-24 footers could indicate the ability to extend his range as he gains strength. A must-have in today’s NBA is the ability to hit threes off the dribble, and looking at Sexton’s shot chart, it is easy to see how he can extend a few feet as he gains lower body strength.
This is the type of development that turned Kemba Walker into a superstar after some early seasons that lacked any sort of scoring efficiency. By all accounts, Sexton has a similar work ethic, and while it could take a few years to develop, time is one thing the Cavs have right now.
Role-playing. The role players have also been playing fantastic. Tristan Thompson blowing away his career highs in both offensive and defensive rebound percentage. He is second to only Andre Drummond in offensive rebounding percentage for players averaging more than 20 minutes per game. He has also extended his shooting range, hitting 59 percent of his shots from three-to-ten feet, besting his career average of 39 percent.
David Nwaba has been a steadying force since joining the starting lineup. His box scores and efficiency haven’t popped, but he is consistently making winning plays. He has a plus 17.3 net rating in 243 minutes this season.
Cedi Osman has also turned a corner in recent weeks after a rough patch. He provided a spark in the fourth quarter against the Lakers and hasn’t been afraid of taking the big shot.
Will this recent success sustain? Most likely not. But in a lost season, it is fun to see everything click. The Cavaliers have a lot of decisions to make as players like George Hill and Sam Dekker return from injury and as they field trade offers for others such as J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver. The roster will be in flux, but if they can maintain the effort we’ve seen the last three games, they should be fun to watch.