The Cleveland Cavaliers received bad news Monday afternoon pertaining to Collin Sexton‘s injury that occurred Sunday evening vs. the Knicks. Sexton banged knees with his fellow teammate Jarrett Allen and was quickly ruled out in New York, creating real concern about how serious the knee injury could be. The Cavs’ learned the injury of Sexton was indeed serious, the MRI came back as a torn meniscus.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) November 8, 2021
This is a huge blow to Cleveland who has experienced plenty of good in the last week during their four-game winning streak. The Cavaliers have enjoyed a week of hardly-fought wins coming against potential playoff-caliber squads: the Hornets, Trail Blazers, Raptors and Knicks. Now, the Wine and Gold have questions to answer after Sexton’s unfortunate injury.
The Problems Created by Sexton’s Absence
First off, the recovery time of the Alabama product Sexton is unknown. The timetable off a torn meniscus can vary depending on the decision of whether to undergo surgery—no surgery could be a 4-8 week recovery time while surgery could mean a season-ending setback. Even if Sexton can return in as little as 4-6 weeks, this comes at a bad time for the Cavs. Isaac Okoro has missed seven straight games with a hamstring strain and both Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen are in the midst of the NBA’s health and safety protocol. Plus, the Cavaliers’ schedule is almost exclusively playoff-worthy squads until mid-January.
Sexton’s injury is certainly a hit to Cleveland since he is capable of providing so much offense. While he is currently averaging only 16 points and a career-low from three (24.4%), Sexton is fully capable of being a consistent, efficient scoring threat proven by his 24+ point average last season. More than likely, the fourth-year guard was going to get over this shooting slump and help the Cavs with shot-making in a big way. Not only will Sexton’s play be missed, but it also creates rotational issues.
The Cavs now have Issues with their Rotation
As mentioned, Okoro is currently missing time due to an injury. His perimeter defense was already missed, but now his return becomes even more needed with Sexton’s injury. Okoro could be inserted into the starting lineup to replace Sexton at shooting guard. Since Okoro is gone, Ricky Rubio could be a starter now. The prospect of Rubio starting is an issue, not because of his play but rather the hit to the Cavaliers’ bench. Rubio has been a godsend for the Wine and Gold providing quality minutes as a backup point guard. He operates the second unit’s offense, which will be gone if Rubio starts.
One of Cleveland’s major issues last season was the absence of a backup point guard. The offense from the second unit was extremely poor due to a lack of facilitating and playmaking. Rubio has been everything the Cavs needed, as seen by his eruption of 37 points against the Knicks.
Ricky Rubio had a career night at MSG 🔥
37 PTS (career-high)
10 AST pic.twitter.com/DdseVpg9LZ
— NBA TV (@NBATV) November 8, 2021
He is producing at a nice level in his current role, the Cavaliers will not want to change that. Thankfully, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reported Okoro is nearing his return,
“If all continues to go well in his recovery over the next few days, Okoro will be back for Wednesday’s home game against Washington, a source said.”
Even if Okoro can return on Wednesday, he will likely be on limited minutes. With that in mind, it is unlikely Okoro would start. It feels like no matter what Rubio has to start in the next game or two. The bench production, which has been much improved, could take a huge hit without Rubio.
Potential Answers to Soften the Blow
Recently, the Cavaliers have gotten huge minutes from Cedi Osman and Dylan Windler off the bench. Osman and Windler have played solid defense at times combined with knockdown shooting. Kevin Pangos has not seen any meaningful action but could be a point guard option to run the second unit if Rubio starts in some games.
When Okoro and Markkanen are back to their full minutes, the Cavs can survive without Sexton. Okoro will need to add more on the offensive end if that is to happen. This would allow Rubio to return to his much-needed sixth man role. Meanwhile, Markkanen has the capability of replacing some of Sexton’s scoring. In addition, Darius Garland has to shoot more since he’s been passive at times. The third-year point guard out of Vanderbilt can be a consistent 20-point scorer with an aggressive mindset. Overall, the Cavs have taken massive strides at 7-4 (5-2 in the last 7) due to several key players. Allen was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week with his superb play, and Evan Mobley continues to drop jaws as he looks to be the early season’s Rookie of the Year.
Without a doubt, the Cavaliers’ goal of the NBA Playoffs or Play-In Tournament just got a lot tougher. Cleveland will hold their breath as they await news on Sexton’s recovery path. The Cavs will march on without the production of Sexton beginning this Wednesday at 7 PM EST vs. the Wizards.
Featured image courtesy of Tom Withers/The Associated Press
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