Stuck with the eighth pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers really couldn’t have done any better than they did with Collin Sexton. The 22-year-old guard has solidified himself as the third or fourth-best player of his class and was absolutely the best prospect available to them, considering Shai-Gilgeous Alexander openly stated he didn’t want to play for Cleveland.
Since then, Sexton has weathered a controversial rookie season that left fans and the media uncertain of his future. His sophomore stint was an improvement but didn’t do much to mend the gap between those who hated his game and fans who adored him.
Now, more than halfway through his third season, Collin has done everything you could reasonably hope for from a player at this stage of his career. And yet, the debate continues, is Sexton worthy of being a franchise cornerstone?
There should be no question about it, Collin Sexton is deserving of a max contract extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There’s plenty of angles you can take to prove Sexton is worth max dollars. The most obvious of all is his scoring, where he rivals the best shot creators in the NBA in terms of efficiency. Sexton is posting 24.0 points per game on 48/36/81 shooting splits or a true shooting percentage of 57.2 percent. This makes Sexton one of 17 players in the NBA to attempt 18 field goals per game on above 57 true shooting – next to quality comparisons such as Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal and CJ McCollum.
Of that group, Sexton is the second-youngest player featured behind only Luka Doncic. Everyone else on the list is either an All-Star or MVP candidate, putting Sexton in some pretty good company as an offensive threat.
Obviously, Sexton is a tier below the All-Star threshold and a significant step away from being an MVP candidate. This is where improvements as a playmaker and defender will be the difference-maker in determining his ceiling as a star in the NBA.
Sexton has certainly made progress on both of these fronts. He’s averaging a career-high 4.1 assists despite playing more off-ball than ever before. This showcases the improvements he’s made in regards to reading the floor and finding the open teammates. While his turnover rate remains higher than you’d like (2.8 per game) this is the only area he truly needs to polish as a secondary distributor.
Other key points of his offensive game include taking another step forward as a 3-point shooter. He’s hitting a respectable percentage from deep but on low frequency. We’ve seen him flash potential as a perimeter threat such as when he bombarded the Brooklyn Nets in overtime but getting more 3-pointers up is something the entire Cavaliers’ roster needs to emphasize. Cleveland ranks dead last in 3-point attempts.
Defensively, Sexton doesn’t have much to work with. Even with his lanky arms, he’s undersized at 6’3″ and I’d beg you to find more than three elite perimeter defenders in the 2021 NBA All-Star Class who are under that height. It simply isn’t common among high-powered offensive guards in today’s league.
However, there’s still hope for Sexton. I’ve discussed before why advanced analytics don’t tell the full story when it comes to Young Bull. But, to sum it up, Sexton is a quick-twitch athlete with a never-ending motor on both ends of the floor. Surround him with better defensive teammates and allow him a few years to learn the game and it’s perfectly reasonable to assume Sexton can become a respectable defender. After all, how many 22-year-old guards are great at defense anyways?
It’s ridiculous to say that Sexton has plateaued as a prospect. He’s still younger than some of last year’s lottery picks and he’s improved each season (and even each month, with March 2021 being his highest-scoring stretch of the season.)
If you are opposed to giving Sexton a max extension, my question is – who else is Cleveland going to pay? Free agents aren’t signing up to play for the Cavaliers anytime soon and the gap to becoming a star for Sexton is much smaller than the leap Darius Garland would need to make to earn max dollars.
Plus, it’s important to remember that extending a rookie deal is not the same as offering a supermax contract to an already existing star. The Cavaliers would likely sign Sexton for the next four to five years, meaning he’d only be 27 years old by the time it expires. Even if Sexton caps out as an efficient 24 points per game scorer – is that not worth paying for if you’re a small-market team like Cleveland?
The Cavaliers’ best bet is perhaps lucking out in the upcoming NBA Draft and securing a name like Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs or Jalen Green. But, with flattened lottery odds and of course, the chance for one of them to be a bust – I have to question why the Cavaliers wouldn’t pay Sexton and risk losing him at this stage in the rebuild.
I understand the urge to tank and place all of your chips in the NBA Draft. However, once more, the new lottery odds offer just a 14 percent chance of the top pick even if you’re the outright worst team in the NBA. There’s much more incentive to build the most competitive team you can and take a swing when the opportunity presents itself. For example, look at how the Toronto Raptors worked diligently each year to build a contender until eventually, they capitalized on Kawhi Leonard’s trade request and went all-in on their championship window.
There’s really no sense in hoping for another superstar talent to come out of Cleveland when there’s already a promising young player like Sexton embracing the city. He’s earned everything he has so far and he’s worth the money. Pay Collin Sexton.