In his four seasons in the NBA, Collin Sexton of the Utah Jazz has been among the most polarizing players in the league. He played 218 games for the team that drafted him, the Cleveland Cavaliers, before being included in the recent massive trade that sent Donovan Mitchell from Utah to Cleveland. A deal that could have been beaten by other teams if they’d really pushed.
Whether fairly or not, Sexton’s time with the Cavaliers will be one in which he was known as a player who could put up really solid individual numbers, but his team failed to go anywhere. It was only when Sexton got injured and the Cavs allowed Darius Garland to take over that the franchise began to truly move in the right direction.
Collin Sexton is in the best position to rebuild his value while playing in Utah.
As fans and consumers of the NBA, we always look for narratives and reasons to explain why things are the way that they are. Yes, there is some truth to the Cavaliers’ getting better once Sexton was out of the equation through injury. But Garland’s emergence coincided with a potentially generational talent named Evan Mobley being drafted by the organization as well.
But Sexton has averaged 20 points per game thus far in his career. That’s extremely impressive and part of the reason the Utah Jazz were absolutely fine with signing him to a four-year, $72 million deal as part of the Mitchell trade. The Utah Jazz are going nowhere in a hurry, and if Sexton can light it up, helping keep fans engaged and buying tickets while the team loses more than it wins, then everybody will be happy.
But Utah will also likely be the place where Sexton comes to realize his best role. While with the Cavaliers, they were going nowhere and needed a savior. In today’s game, point guards who can score in bunches and at least act animated enough to have you believe they’re contributing defensively are important to any winning outfit. If they are able to genuinely connect with a fanbase as well, then all the better.
The label of “franchise player” was bestowed upon Sexton following LeBron James’ second departure, and why not given his output? In year three, he averaged a ridiculous 24.3 points and 4.4 assists in the 60 games that he played.
Those are All-Star level numbers. Defensively, you would say that he was about average and again gave great effort, although the numbers would argue otherwise and that this was where his problems truly lay. It is great to score points, but if you’re going to give away even more on the other end, what’s the point?
Collin Sexton is a flawed but talented player who can help the Utah Jazz.
It is somewhat ironic that if Collin Sexton had had a chance to really gel with Mobley (a defensive menace after one season), then we could have seen both benefiting from the partnership. We will never get that, or even a Sexton/Rudy Gobert tandem, as he was moved by the Jazz this summer too.
But what about when the Jazz draft elite prospects and sign young players with a lot of upside over the next few years? All of a sudden, being able to put up 20 in a game while also having more experience and maturity than those who come through the door after Sexton, will begin to show real value. The Jazz have been looking for a younger, more athletic, and aggressive version of what Mike Conley Jr. has been for the Jazz over the last number of years.
Should the Jazz actually win the NBA lottery next year and select Victor Wembanyama first overall, the need to have a point guard capable of scoring in bunches and teeing up their young star would be huge. Yes, there would need to be a defensive improvement and a serious uptick in the 3.3 assists Sexton has averaged over the course of his career so far.
But he is somehow still only 23 years old, not even in his prime. Sexton needs only to look at another “empty calories” player to see how he can reshape his future to have a bigger impact on winning. Center Nikola Vucevic was the Orlando Magic’s everything for the last four or so years that he was there. A walking double-double and two-time all-star.
The Magic never went anywhere major with all of those massive personal numbers, but it was still enough to get him to the Chicago Bulls. From there, his own output has dipped, but he is now an important piece of a bigger jigsaw. One with playoff expectations each year. Sexton could have been that in Cleveland, but the fit felt off and in Mitchell, they got a better player for that role.
But there is no reason that Sexton can’t now take his time rebuilding his brand with the Jazz. At the very least, continuing to play like he has, on the deal he just signed, means other teams may even look to trade for him as time goes on.
For now, though, Collin Sexton is a high-scoring guard who hasn’t even hit his prime and has a blank canvas in Utah. From Salt Lake City, he will rebuild his career.