In the past three years the Cleveland Cavaliers have had NBA rookies like Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr., Isaac Okoro and Dylan Windler. All of these rookies have contributed and played a lot in their first NBA season. However, none competed for a Rookie of the Year award. Okoro and Windler are still in the midst of their rookie season, but it does not look likely either will win the 2020-21 Rookie of the Year award. Will the Cavs obtain a rookie that is of Rookie of the Year caliber anytime soon?
Recent Cav Rookies
The last time Cleveland had a Rookie of the Year was in 2012. Kyrie Irving won the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year award after being the number one selection in the 2011 NBA Draft. Irving averaged 18.5 points per game while shooting an efficient 46.9%. This was only a preview of what the outstanding guard was capable of. He is now viewed as one of the best ball-handlers of all-time, and one of the NBA’s elite one-on-one bucket getters.
In the past three NBA Drafts, the Cavs had three top 10 picks. In the 2018 Draft, Cleveland selected the guard from Alabama Sexton with the 8th pick. Sexton was a really good rookie scoring 16.7 points per contest shooting 43%. Without question, Sexton has been the closest thing to a Rookie of the Year since Irving.
In the 2019 Draft, the Cavaliers had the 5th pick and picked the Vanderbilt guard Garland. This was a somewhat risky pick considering Garland missed most of his freshman season with a knee injury. Garland ended up having a solid rookie season by improving steadily as the season went on. By shooting 40.1%, Garland was not the most efficient guard, but he did score 12.3 points per game.
Currently, the Cavs’ 5th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft is in the middle of his rookie season. The former Auburn forward Isaac Okoro was selected at five for his impressive defense. Okoro has started virtually the whole year and has been tasked with much responsibility. The Cavalier forward has been decent so far by scoring 8.1 points per contest and flashing his defensive potential at times. The 2020-21 NBA season is far from over, Okoro has plenty of time to build upon his rookie season. However, it looks extremely unlikely that Okoro will win a Rookie of the Year award.
2021 Draft Targets
How the Cavaliers finish the season is a mystery right now. After slumping, the Cavs have won four of their past five games and are flashing playoff potential again. Cleveland should have a pick in the 2021 NBA Draft in the range of 6-16. More than likely, the Cavs will have another lottery pick. With another potential lottery pick, who could the Cavs select in hopes of getting their first Rookie of the Year since 2012?
Cleveland should be focused on the forward position in the 2021 NBA Draft. Some possible options include Jonathan Kuminga, Ziaire Williams and Scottie Barnes. All of these players look to be selected in the 3-15 pick range. Williams and Barnes would probably be solid rookies, but being a Rookie of the Year would be surprising. In contrast, Kuminga has sky-high potential and could easily be a Rookie of the Year.
If the Cavs have another pick in the range of 3-6 they could get Kuminga, and in turn have a potential Rookie of the Year very soon. Obtaining a pick this high is not a guarantee though, and the Cavs should be more concerned with winning now rather than tanking. Cleveland simply does not need Rookie of the Year players to build a successful franchise. The Cavaliers’ rebuild is on the right track with a roster full of young, talented players.
All stats courtesy of ESPN and Basketball-Reference.