Isaac Okoro, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rookie, has been used heavily to begin his NBA career. Through Okoro’s heavy usage, the Cavs are putting a lot of pressure on the newcomer. He is playing over 30 minutes per game as a starter and is consistently tasked with defending some of the NBA’s best scorers.
As most rookies are, Okoro has been quite inconsistent. The rookie has struggled at times on the offensive end. Okoro is averaging 7.9 points per game, which is not that bad for a rookie in the NBA. Where the forward has lacked is his efficiency. He is shooting 39.1% from the field, 28.4% from three, 46.8% on two point attempts and 66.7% from the free throw line.
Okoro has not yet posted the defensive stats most hoped for. The former Auburn Tiger is averaging 1.2 steals per game, 0.4 blocks per game and 1.6 defensive rebounds per game. In the steals department, Okoro is doing pretty well. However, most expected more in Okoro’s blocking and rebounding ability. While some stats may be lacking on the defensive end, Okoro has flashed his massive defensive potential this year.
Let's check in on Isaac Okoro's development, starting with his greatest strength: Defense
Okoro is a high-impact defender because of his active hands, athleticism and physicality
He is constantly disrupting ball-handlers and racking up deflections in the passing lane pic.twitter.com/mGQDBPNlBE
— Tony Pesta (@Tony_Pesta) January 31, 2021
Cleveland has thrown Okoro right into the flames from the very start of his career. Okoro has averaged 33.3 minutes per game in his 26 games this season. Of course, any top five pick in the NBA Draft will probably see a lot of play time from the start.
Consistently, the Cavs have assigned Okoro with extremely tough defensive assignments. Just within the last week, Okoro was put on the red-hot Jamal Murray. Murray shot a blazing 84% and poured in 50 points. When Murray was around the total of 20 points, the Cavs decided to put Okoro on the guard. At this point, Murray was already making everything he put up and Okoro found no way to slow him down.
Another tough defensive assignment for Okoro was against the Los Angeles Lakers. Okoro had to guard LeBron James, and James had a personal season-high of 46 points. Okoro has simply been put on any high-scoring guard or forward this season. For Cleveland, it makes sense because Okoro was drafted for his defensive ability. The rookie has to learn on the fly as there has been no easy defensive game for him.
JB Bickerstaff has put a ton of pressure on Okoro. This will show what kind of player Okoro truly is. How will he react to pressure? How will Okoro perform in the clutch against offensive monsters? Bickerstaff has even acknowledged the amount of pressure put on Okoro.
The Cavs are giving Isaac Okoro a lot of time and experience, and the rookie seems to be embracing the challenge 💯 pic.twitter.com/ngTbYy9fdv
— Cavs Nation (@CavsNationCP) February 19, 2021
While putting so much pressure on Okoro could backfire, it also could speed up the learning process. For Okoro, it may be tough right now, but it is quite obvious the Cavs have full confidence and trust in the rookie’s ability and development.
Becoming More Aggressive
Okoro should continue to trust the process, and become more aggressive. Okoro has shot 10 or more field goals in only six games this season. The rookie saw double-digit scoring totals in every game in which he shot 10 or more times.
The 6-foot-6 forward should chase his shot a bit more. Okoro has struggled with his shot this year, but the only way out of that is trusting yourself and continuing to shoot. There is not doubt as a top five pick, Okoro can develop a productive offensive game.
Recently, Okoro has been more aggressive and it has yielded results. On February 19, the Cavs faced the Denver Nuggets. Against the Nuggets, Okoro probably had his best offensive performance. He shot 50% from the field and scored 14 points. Even more impressive, he was 3/6 from beyond the three-point arc.
Cleveland needs any offensive production possible in this 10 game losing-streak. Okoro could bring a lift to the Cavs offense if he becomes more aggressive, and it could contribute to improving his offensive game.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and ESPN.
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