On a day when former franchise-everything LeBron James was in the house supporting his new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers continued their transition to the future at the Las Vegas Summer League. The Cavs’ summer league team defeated the Toronto Raptors 82-68 to move into the tournament semifinals on Monday night, and No. 9 overall pick Collin Sexton had another strong game with 18 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds. But will his Vegas display translate to the regular season against NBA competition?
Sexton has spent the summer league as primarily a volume scorer from the lead guard spot, averaging 17.8 points on 43.3 percent from the floor through six games. However, Sexton is doing most of his damage inside the arc, as he’s shooting 46.3 percent (37-of-80) on 2-point shots but only 20 percent (2-of-10) from downtown. The lack of a consistent 3-pointer could be a problem at the next level, as he’ll need that shot to be a consistently effective scorer at his size.
Cavs guard Collin Sexton pushes the tempo and finishes through traffic for an and-1 layup.
Sexton likes to attack the rim off the dribble from the 3-point line, sometimes utilizing screens but often creating on his own to get into the lane. He has a quick enough first step that he often has able to create a bit of space, but isn’t very large so is not adept at using his body to seal off the defender. Instead, Sexton often relies on quickness to get to the rim jumper. On Sunday, there were six dribble-drives in the first half that culminated in either trying to finish at the rim or turning the ball over, the most memorable of which coming when he accelerated but missed a one-handed dunk over an interior defender.
While these drives in Vegas generally led to either made layups or drawn fouls (Sexton has averaged 6.7 free throw attempts), it’s unclear if he’ll have the size and explosiveness to finish with as much success at the rim at the next level. But Sexton also demonstrated the ability to either pull up off the dribble or to find teammates with kick passes off the drive. Sexton took at least four jump shots off the dribble on Sunday, which resulted in three made midrange jumpers. This is a shot that should be a weapon for him in the NBA.
Collin Sexton hits a tough stepback jumper for the Cavs’ first points in Sunday’s game against the Raptors.
The aggressive drive and kick should also be effective at the next level, especially when he’s surrounded by more talented shooters. While Sexton had six assists on Sunday, there were at least six other assist opportunities where the teammate either missed the shot or turned the ball over.
It was heartening to see Sexton be able to set up teammates for so many shots on Sunday, because that has been a question mark during his Vegas stint. Sexton has had three summer league games with three assists or less — including a goose egg in his debut against the Washington Wizards — and it remains to be seen if he has the court vision to be a full-time floor general. However, if he can be disruptive and leverage his own scoring to create assist opportunities, Sexton can at least be effective in a combo role, perhaps splitting time with George Hill or Jordan Clarkson.
That leads to questions over Sexton’s size, as he measured only 6-foot-1½ with shoes and 183 pounds at the combine. But he did show a willingness to mix it up in Vegas with his 6-foot-7¼ wingspan. On Sunday, especially in the second half, he was routinely getting switched onto larger players such as Malachi Richardson, Alfonso McKinnie and Rawle Alkins and held his own. Sexton was rarely overpowered to disadvantage and used guile to pull the chair on McKinnie though he was still called for a reaching foul. And, in one of my favorite plays of his against the Wizards last week, Sexton set a physical back-pick at the free throw line that freed up a teammate for a wide-open reverse alley-oop dunk.
The Cavaliers are hoping that Sexton will be one of their primary building blocks in the post-LeBron era, relying upon his ability to create for himself and the team as a focal point for their future offense. He showed some useful skills in Vegas, both as a scorer and as a creator, but needs to work on his long-range shooting and passing ability to achieve his maximum impact at the pro level.