Collin Sexton

Cavaliers Notes: Garland, Sexton, Draft, Love

Statistically, Cavaliers rookie Darius Garland is the NBA’s worst player this season, but Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com believes it’s too early to write him off as a draft bust. The No. 5 pick ranks last in Win Shares, Value Over Replacement Player and ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus and was outshined by several players who were drafted much later.

However, Fedor notes that first-year guards on poor teams usually need time to grow into their games. Teammate Collin Sexton faced similar criticism during his rookie season, but showed significant improvement this year. Garland just turned 20 in January, and his college career was limited to four full games because of a knee injury. He had another procedure on the knee during the offseason that forced him to miss Summer League, then had a foot injury in training camp.

“The world is not patient. You guys are not patient,” Tristan Thompson said. “Lose 10 games in a row you think the season is ending. Everyone is like that. Everyone wants instant results. But life is not like that, especially in a team sport. … It’s a learning curve for everyone and as long as you handle your job and do what you’ve got to do every day the rest will follow and we’ll see.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavs won’t have to make a long-term decision on the future of the Sexton-Garland backcourt until next summer, Fedor writes in a separate story. That’s when Sexton will be eligible for a rookie scale extension that would involve a significant financial investment. In the meantime, Fedor suggests Sexton, Garland and rookie Kevin Porter Jr. could all see starter’s minutes as Cleveland evaluates its young talent.
  • The front office remains split on this year’s best prospect, but LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman are at the top of the Cavaliers’ draft board, Fedor adds in the same piece. If the team doesn’t finish high enough in the lottery to get one of them, Israeli forward Deni Avdija could be the pick because he fills a need. GM Koby Altman and scouting director Brandon Weems both traveled overseas to watch Avdija play, and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has several former players who have been teammates with Avdija.
  • Jason Lloyd of The Athletic examines how Kevin Love emerged as the NBA’s leading spokesman on mental health issues. Love’s newest cause is calling attention to the lack of diverse therapists available to minorities.

Cavaliers Notes: Thompson, Sexton, Garland, MLE

Uncertainty surrounding the upcoming free agent market may work in the Cavaliers‘ favor as they try to keep Tristan Thompson, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Multiple sources tell Fedor that the Cavs are hoping to re-sign the veteran big man, who has spent his entire nine-season NBA career in Cleveland. The front office tried to work out an extension during the season, but didn’t make any progress.

Thompson, whose five-year, $82MM deal just expired, may not find any big-money offers as the league adjusts to massive revenue losses. Fedor notes that apart from the Heat, who are believed to be saving cap space for a more attractive crop of free agents in 2021, all the teams with projected cap space are in rebuilding situations like the Cavaliers.

“I believe there’s a chance of him re-signing in free agency,” a source close to Thompson told Fedor. “He hasn’t necessarily played his final game there.”

Fedor suggests that the Lakers, Clippers or Thompson’s hometown Raptors could offer him their mid-level exception, but the Cavs could easily top that, especially since they own his Bird rights. Another possibility is a sign-and-trade that would send Thompson to a contender while giving Cleveland another asset to build around.

There’s more this morning from Cleveland:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a look at the Cavaliers’ future and questions whether Collin Sexton and Darius Garland can ever form an effective backcourt combination. Both are small guards with deficiencies on defense, and Hollinger believes Garland looked “overmatched” during his rookie season. He suggests that Garland’s long-term role may be off the bench, especially with a guard-rich draft looming.
  • In the same piece, Hollinger states that the Cavs should use their mid-level exception to find a wing player who can handle either forward position. He mentions Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. and Minnesota’s Juan Hernangomez as possibilities, along with a gamble on Memphis’ Josh Jackson.
  • After being named to the Rising Stars Challenge this year as an injury replacement, Sexton has set a much higher goal for the future, Fedor writes in a separate piece. “I want to push towards that All-Star Game,” Sexton said Friday during a Zoom call with reporters. “I know what (that stage) feels like and it just makes me hungry and makes me want to work that much harder. That’s what’s next for me.”

Central Notes: Bulls, Presti, Wood, Sexton

As the Bulls consider changes to their front office, Sam Presti‘s name is one that has now surfaced multiple times. Discussing the situation last week, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times cited the Thunder‘s head of basketball operations as an example of a big-name candidate Chicago could pursue. This week, David Kaplan said during an appearance on ESPN 1000 that Presti is the Bulls’ top target (Twitter link via Daniel Greenberg).

Kaplan’s comments signal that Cowley’s mention of Presti last week probably didn’t come out of nowhere, so I don’t doubt that the Bulls have interest in the Thunder executive. Still, I’m skeptical that Presti would leave a favorable situation in Oklahoma City – where the team has accumulated more first-round picks than it knows what to do with – for a position in which he’d rank below John Paxson in the Bulls’ organizational hierarchy.

While it’s worth keeping the Bulls’ reported interest in Presti in mind, we may not get a more concrete sense of which candidates are realistically in play for the team until after the season.

Here’s more from out of the Central:

  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic explores whether Christian Wood‘s breakout season with the Pistons is a result of genuine improvement or simply getting a real opportunity. Edwards believes that both are factors, arguing that Wood – a free agent this summer – deserves to be in the Most Improved Player conversation.
  • Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com takes a look at the impact that the Cavaliers‘ trade of Jordan Clarkson has had on Collin Sexton, who says he challenged himself to “step up a little bit more” in the wake of that deal. The second-year guard has averaged 22.6 PPG on .478/.452/.855 shooting in the 32 games since Clarkson’s departure.
  • We passed along several more items from around the Central earlier today, including stories on Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s role in 2019 free agent recruiting, Lauri Markkanen‘s return, and the Cavaliers filling an open roster spot.

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, Sexton, Carter, Brown

J.B. Bickerstaff took over for John Beilein as Cavaliers coach after the All-Star break but he’s not a short-term replacement, he confirmed to Marc Spears of The Undefeated. Bickerstaff has received assurances from the front office he’ll receive a new contract.

“To my knowledge, at some point in time we will negotiate a long-term deal,” Bickerstaff said. “But this wasn’t an interim thing. This was a conversation that (Cavaliers GM) Koby (Altman) and I had. And he said, ‘You’re the head coach moving forward.’ So, the plan is I will be back next season with a long-term deal.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Second-year Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton admitted that Beilein’s departure served as a wakeup call for himself and his teammates, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer relays. Sexton asked himself some hard questions after the team made another coaching change. “Was I as coachable as I could have been? Could I have been more coachable? Could I have received information and criticism better? Let me step back and survey,” Sexton said. “’Was I as good of a player to coach when he was here?’ Had to just look myself in the mirror and ask myself those things.”
  • Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. is hopeful he can return to action as early as Saturday, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. He hasn’t played since January 6 due to an ankle injury. “It’s going to be a little bit weak but continuing to play, continuing to put more stress on it is going to make it stronger,” said Carter, who will be on a minutes restriction when he returns.
  • Pistons guard Bruce Brown has established himself as a defensive stopper and increased his rebounding totals since Andre Drummond was traded but there’s still one glaring area of improvement, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com notes. Brown is shooting 44.3% overall and 33.7% on 3-point tries, which is an upgrade from his rookie year but is still a work in progress. “Bruce has improved in a lot of areas,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Shooting has been the last one to come around and I do know that will come around.”

Cavs Notes: Beilein, Drew, Drummond, Cap Room

With multiple members of the Cavaliers‘ front office away on vacations over the All-Star break, the plan is for them to reconvene in Cleveland on Wednesday, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. If there’s still no resolution by that point on John Beilein‘s status for the rest of the season, that resolution will likely come shortly thereafter. The Cavs are scheduled to resume play on Friday in Washington.

As we wait to see what Beilein and the Cavs decide, let’s round up a few other items out of Cleveland…

  • Beilein apparently isn’t the first Cavaliers head coach to consider an in-season departure in recent years. On an episode of the Tampering podcast, Joe Vardon of The Athletic said that interim head coach Larry Drew wanted to step down at the All-Star break in 2018/19, but was talked out of it by his agent (hat tip to RealGM). That’s not a particularly shocking revelation, considering Drew said in January 2019, “I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year.”
  • Speaking to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, second-year Cavs guard Collin Sexton expressed enthusiasm about teaming up with newly-acquired center Andre Drummond. “It’s amazing, just knowing that we have a big man down there who’s going to block shots, run the floor and dunk,” Sexton said. “It’s amazing, and it’ll allow us on defense to be a lot more aggressive and be into the ball because we know that we have a big guy back there who can block shots.”
  • Thanks to the NBA’s updated 2020/21 cap projection and a flurry of deadline trades, there will be far less league-wide cap room available this summer than initially expected, writes Danny Leroux of The Athletic. Leroux points to the Grizzlies and Cavaliers as two teams that significantly reduced their 2020 spending power as a result of in-season deals. Before acquiring Dante Exum and Drummond, Cleveland was on track to have nearly $36MM in space. Now, assuming Drummond doesn’t walk in free agency, the team projects to be over the cap.

Cavaliers Notes: Thompson, Drummond, Sexton, Altman

Tristan Thompson could help solve the Raptors‘ rebounding issues, but a buyout in Cleveland appears unlikely, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. The native Canadian is among 12 players averaging a double-double, with 11.8 PPG and 10.3 RPG. With an expiring contract, he was expected to moved before the deadline by the rebuilding Cavaliers, who snagged his replacement by trading for Andre Drummond.

However, a source tells Grange that neither side plans to pursue a buyout. The Cavs want to hold onto Thompson’s Bird rights for a potential sign-and-trade this summer, while the veteran center believes his best chance to secure a new contract above the mid-level exception is to play out his current deal.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • Drummond made two 3-pointers in his debut with the Cavaliers, more than in any of the 591 games he played for the Pistons, but coach John Beilein doesn’t sound ready to endorse the idea of Drummond as a long distance shooter, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “When they go in, it’s always OK,” Beilein said. “But I think I have to understand who he is a little more. I know he had tried a few, he didn’t shoot any against us I don’t think in any of our games, but if you have a five that can shoot it, it does help a great deal. I think it’s still under some type of watch to see whether we’re going to continue to allow it.”
  • Even though he wasn’t an original choice for the Rising Stars game, the decision to have Collin Sexton replace Tyler Herro on the U.S. roster validates the progress he has made this season, Fedor adds in a separate story. Sexton has been the target of criticism since he came into the league, Fedor notes, and there were suggestions that the Cavaliers should try to trade him before last week’s deadline. However, Sexton has cut down on his turnovers and leads the team in scoring at 19.7 PPG, which ranks third among second-year players behind Trae Young and Luka Doncic.
  • Despite a 13-40 record, general manager Koby Altman tells Fedor he considers this season to be a success because of the development by Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. “If we’re gauging the success of those guys, I’m in a good space,” Altman said. “I’m excited about our future because of where they’ve come from Day One — first game of the season to where they are now and where they’re going.”

Cavs Notes: Drummond, Sexton, McKinnie, Bolden

Heading into the trade deadline, no Pistons player had been with the team longer than Reggie Jackson — except for Andre Drummond. So when Detroit swung a deal that sent Drummond to the Cavaliers, it made sense that Jackson would be among those most affected by the move.

“He was my best friend on the team and it’s been like that for five-and-a-half years. He acclimated me when I first got to Detroit and we built a great friendship and brotherhood,” Jackson said of Drummond, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “That’s my guy forever, so it was a tough day seeing he got traded to the Cavs but wishing him nothing but the best for him and his family.”

As Drummond gets acclimated to his new home in Cleveland, here are a few more Cavaliers-related notes:

  • Second-year Cavs guard Collin Sexton has been added to the U.S. roster for the Rising Stars game in Chicago this weekend, the league announced today. Sexton will replace Heat guard Tyler Herro, who is nursing a right foot injury.
  • Alfonzo McKinnie‘s new four-year contract with the Cavaliers includes a $1.5MM guaranteed salary for the 2019/20 season, according to Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights (Twitter link). That’s significantly more than the $623K McKinnie would have received had he signed a prorated minimum deal. And that’s likely a big reason why he was willing to tack on three team-friendly, non-guaranteed years at the minimum. Cleveland was able to exceed the minimum and go up to four years using the mid-level exception.
  • Following the expiration of his 10-day contract with the Cavaliers, Marques Bolden rejoined the team’s G League affiliate, the Canton Charge, per JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link). Since Bolden just signed a single 10-day deal with Cleveland, he’d be eligible to sign a second one between now and the end of the regular season.

Pistons Trade Andre Drummond To Cavaliers

9:21pm: It’s a done deal, with the Cavaliers and Pistons both issuing press releases to confirm the trade. Detroit announced in a separate release that, as expected, Frazier has been waived to make room on the roster for the incoming players.

1:19pm: The Cavaliers are finalizing a trade with the Pistons that will see them acquire center Andre Drummond, a league source tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (via Twitter), Detroit will receive Brandon Knight and John Henson, both of whom are on expiring contracts. Cleveland will also send the Pistons a second-round pick, per O’Connor.

The pick will be the lesser of Cleveland’s 2023 own pick or the 2023 second-rounder Golden State owes the Cavaliers, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com tweets.

Drummond, the league’s premier rebounder, holds a $28.75MM option on his contract for next season and he’s expected to opt out and test a weak free agent market. The Pistons reportedly were prepared to retain Drummond after talks with the Hawks and Knicks fell through but ultimately decided to move on and go into rebuild mode. Detroit was looking for a first-round pick for Drummond but settled on the second-rounder, along with those expiring contracts.

The modest haul for Drummond was surprising but Detroit’s front office wanted to avoid the possibility of Drummond opting in, O’Connor adds in another tweet. It also gives Cleveland the opportunity to see how Drummond meshes with the young backcourt of  Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.

The Pistons will now have approximately $35MM in cap space this summer, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Cleveland will be close to the cap if Drummond opts in or re-signs with the starting salary in the $29-$30MM range, Marks adds.

Knight is making approximately $15.64MM and Henson has a $9.73MM contract, so the Pistons will shave some money off this year’s cap. They were perilously close to the luxury tax line prior to the proposed deal. Detroit was less than $4,000 under the tax line but moves to $1.7MM under the threshold via this trade, according to Marks (Twitter link).

Drummond has a $857K trade bonus that will be applied to his $27.1MM cap hit for this season, Marks relays in another tweet. Drummond, who has spent his whole career with Pistons since being chosen in the 2012 lottery, is averaging 17.8 PPG and an NBA-best 15.8 RPG this season.

The Pistons will have to open up a roster spot before making the trade official since it is at the 15-man limit. It’s likely that Tim Frazier, who has served as the No. 3 point guard behind Derrick Rose and Reggie Jackson, will be waived unless Detroit makes another trade, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Beilein, Sexton, Mykhailiuk, Antetokounmpos

The Cavaliers seem distracted by the trade deadline as they rack up embarrassing losses, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The latest came last night as the Warriors broke a 10-game road losing streak with a 19-point blowout in Cleveland.

“Every loss is hitting me really hard and hitting us … I know it’s hitting me hard, I can’t answer for other people,” coach John Beilein said. “It’s just trying to find solutions and trying to find a better way to get our guys to play harder and smarter, which will lead to wins. But there’s some things that just happen because we’re young and some things happen because of persistence in our effort and some things happen because we’re just missing some pieces in the roster here and there.”

The team may have a different attitude and a different look once the deadline passes Thursday afternoon. Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, John Henson and Matthew Dellavedova are all veterans on expiring contracts who may be sent elsewhere. Kevin Love, the team’s highest-paid player, has displayed frustration throughout the season and is also a candidate to be moved.

One question Beilein couldn’t answer last night is whether he still has the support of the players as the Cavaliers have fallen to the bottom of the Eastern Conference at 13-37.

“I think that our guys have to measure themselves,” he said. “Are they bought in to playing winning basketball? I don’t think it has anything to do with a particular coach or coaches, whatever, they’ve just got to go and play hard.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton was “shocked” to be passed over for the Rising Stars Challenge, Fedor adds in a separate story. “I knew I deserved to be there,” said Sexton, who also wasn’t invited to the game last year. “I knew the hard work every day, coming here and playing the game. I knew I deserved to be out there, but I took the good with it. Hey, just continue to build. Can’t be too mad because it is what it is.”
  • The Pistons are benefiting from an under-the-radar trade last February that brought in Svi Mykhailiuk from the Lakers in exchange for Reggie Bullock, notes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. “He’s on track to be one of our core pieces as far as his shooting ability, his ability to make plays off the dribble,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s right with Luke (Kennard) as far as being able to put the ball on the floor, run pick and rolls. And the kid’s a sponge – you can get on him, you can coach him, you can teach him.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thanasis Antetokounmpo were thrilled to be in the starting lineup together on Friday, relays Eric Woodyard of ESPN. It marked the first start of Thanasis’ NBA career, and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer made the decision because it was Greek Night in Milwaukee.

Kevin Love: “I Love My Teammates”

After a day that started with a tirade against general manager Koby Altman and culminated with in-game show of disgust that quickly went viral (video link), Kevin Love offered his side of the story last night on Instagram, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“A lot of non truths being shared,” he wrote. “But I’ve learned that we live in a world where people remember accusations and not rebuttals. Let them paint whatever picture they want. Fact is — I love my teammates.”

Those feelings weren’t on display shortly before the end of the first half of the Cavaliers‘ loss to the Thunder Saturday night. Guarded by Chris Paul in the post, Love raised both arms and called for the ball. However, coach John Beilein had instructed Collin Sexton to dribble some time off the clock before running a play. Love stomped toward Sexton and put his hands out until he got the ball, then fired a bullet pass at Cedi Osman.

It was an obvious show of frustration that might have been directed at Sexton, Beilein, Altman or the team’s losing ways in general.

“I think you’re talking about the play with Chris Paul on me,” Love told reporters after the game. “Yeah, I felt we were making a play call and at the end of the second half we were in the bonus and I had Chris Paul on me. Felt swing it to me and try to throw it in the post, see if they double-team me and get a shot out of that, but that’s not what we did. Yeah, I was frustrated.”

After Saturday morning’s shootaround, Love directed his anger at Altman in an animated discussion that began on the court and ended in the GM’s office. Love has had heated exchanges with Altman and the coaching staff before and was fined $1K for a display of emotion during a December 31 loss at Toronto.

Beilein tried to calm tensions last night, accepting responsibility for the play that ended the first half.

“That was my mistake,” he said. “I was trying to get us to slow down and try to get, not the last shot, but close to the last shot. He had Chris Paul posted up and I didn’t see it. It was on me. I called something else.”

Beilein values Love’s passion for the game and his desire to see his young teammates learn to play the right way. Sexton can be frustrating to play with because of his tendency to seek his own shot, Fedor adds, recalling that several veteran Cavaliers spoke out about him early last season.

Love’s future in Cleveland remains uncertain. His championship experience makes him valuable as a mentor, but at age 31 he doesn’t fit in with the rebuilding process. After Saturday’s incidents, everything he does will be closely watched until at least next month’s trade deadline.