Collin Sexton is having his breakout moment.
Collin Sexton’s career-high 42-point night against the Nets was his first real coming-out party. People watching the Cavs regularly have known that he is already good, but this felt like the moment where people outside the Cleveland bubble saw how good Sexton is and what he can do.
A quick rundown of Sexton’s season to date: He’s averaging 27 points per game, up from 20.8 per game last year. He’s shooting 53.4% from the field and 50% on three-pointers while averaging 3.7 assists and 2 turnovers per game. Only Andre Drummond has a higher usage than Sexton among regular rotation players and Sexton’s been far more efficient. Defensively, he’s not a lockdown defender by any means, but he fights now and isn’t being picked on all the time anymore. It’s hard to argue that he’s not the Cavs’ best player at this point.
The Nets performance was also a tease of what’s to come for him if he’s going to continue to grow. Even if his numbers regress – and they probably will, because no one shoots 50% from three for a season – that growth is still expected.
With the game slowing down in the first and second overtimes, Sexton became Cleveland’s offense in a sense. He handled the ball every possession down and scored 20 straight points. Most notably, he made multiple pull-up three-pointers – quick pull-ups, probing ones where he had navigated Kevin Durant’s length, side-step pull-ups. These are shots that he’s never really taken before.
Those are the kind of shots he will need to make someday in a tight playoff game, and he just showed he can handle it. Cavs-Nets was not a playoff game by any means, but it’s one of the most high-stakes games Sexton has played in since being drafted in 2018. That’s an unfortunate product of being a bad team.
The Cavs still have work to do — it still feels like this team is a year away from being a real problem. We’ll see if the Cavs ultimately add another high pick in next year’s draft and we’ll see where Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Jarrett Allen, and all the rest of the young core is headed. Sexton could settle in as the head of the group or he could be something a little less centered as the core develops, if still the 1A option. That question and others, though, are to be answered in time.
What’s clear is that he’s part of what the Cavs are building. When thinking about what the team is and where it’s headed, he has to be front-and-center in those plans.
It’s also worth remembering that Sexton wasn’t destined to be this good – an All-Star candidate at the league’s deepest position. The engine of a Cavs team that is currently 7-7 and seemingly annoying to play despite a rash of injuries to key players. This was someone who was not highly recruited, had a statistically poor rookie season, and took time to do things like shoot three-pointers and make easy passes.
But now he’s doing all of that – and more – at a high level. The player whose teammates complained about not passing and who dribbled out of taking wide-open corner three-pointers is dead. Long live this version of Sexton and wherever he’s going next. For those only now aware of how good he is, Sexton has another level to hit. — Chris Manning
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Who we are
Chris Manning: Site Manager at Fear the Sword, co-host of the Locked on Cavs podcast, words at places like Cleveland Magazine and Forbes. On Twitter @cwmwrites
Jordan Zirm: Social editor at @TheCheckdown. Formerly of ESPN Cleveland. Words at B/R, SB Nation and UPROXX. Host of The Rebuild podcast. On Twitter @clevezirm
Alex Hooper: Contributor at Fantasy Sports Insight. Former Cleveland Baseball Club beat writer for 92.3 the Fan (WKRK), and contributor at Sports Illustrated, Let’s Go Tribe, and the News-Herald. On Twitter @lexhooper.