The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Isaac Okoro is shining after finding his offensive game in recent games. The second-year wing has averaged 18.5 points while shooting 10/17 from three in his last four games. Okoro has been electric in transition and as a driver, providing highlight-worthy plays.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) December 16, 2021
The Auburn product’s lift in production has been a large factor in the Cavs’ recent convincing wins. Before Okoro’s jump in production, Cleveland did not have a big scoring presence starting at shooting guard since Collin Sexton‘s season-ending knee injury. Okoro has now added reliable three-point shooting from the corner in recent games, while still being a good driver and defender. His added offensive production was beginning to make the Cavaliers an even larger threat in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavs were already thriving before Okoro’s offensive jump. He was doing enough and adding much value as Cleveland’s ace perimeter defender. That is vital in the NBA with many talented scoring guards and wings. In the modern NBA, three-point shooting can make teams very dangerous. Okoro finding his three-point stroke and being reliable from the corner has been huge. His recent level of play has been a younger, more athletic version of the Heat’s P.J. Tucker — who has been a deadly corner shooter and defender for years in the association.
Unfortunately, it was announced Thursday afternoon that Okoro was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Cleveland's Isaac Okoro has entered Covid protocols, team says.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 16, 2021
Typically, it takes around two weeks for players to clear the NBA’s COVID protocols. This means Okoro will miss several games in the coming weeks, which comes at the wrong time with Okoro playing well. How the Cavs bounce back in Okoro’s absence will be interesting.
Cleveland will be Challenged Without Okoro
The shooting guard position will be thin for the Cavaliers without Okoro. Cleveland will be without their usual starter in Sexton and the emerging Okoro. The most likely scenario is Ricky Rubio enters the starting lineup, but Cedi Osman could make the most sense. Rubio orchestrates the second unit, making him a vital bench piece. Keeping the vet point guard with the second unit would be ideal, and Osman is playing well enough to start. Osman could replace Okoro’s recent three-point shooting, but will not be the same level of defender. No matter what, the Cavaliers will not have a replacement that can defend like Okoro.
Okoro was putting together a stretch that was the best of his young career. Now, he will be challenged with a prolonged absence that could disrupt his groove. Cleveland’s schedule is finally getting easier from here on out, so the Cavs could certainly continue to hold a playoff spot in the East without Okoro.
Featured image courtesy of Jason Miller/Getty Images
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