I know you typically don’t find significant takeaways from NBA Summer League.
With that said, allow me to point out a very significant takeaway from the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ performance during the NBA Summer League.
In rookie Collin Sexton, this team may have found itself a perfect player for fans to latch onto in the wake of LeBron James‘ latest departure.
It’s a slight overreaction, I’m aware. Still, after a very impressive debut in a Cavs uniform, Sexton has lit a fire under fans trying to find a reason to get excited about this team moving forward.
In seven Summer League games, the rookie point guard out of Alabama averaged 19.57 PPG. It wasn’t all pretty, as his field goal percentage was a shade under 43% and he missed a handful of shots right at the rim. However, his ability to knife through defenses and get to the basket with frightening ease caught national attention.
Sexton’s performance helped push the Cavs to the Summer League semifinals, where they came just short of beating the Los Angeles Lakers to advance to the last round. It also completely changed the mindset many had about him when he was drafted a couple weeks ago.
Remember, when Sexton’s name was called, many Cleveland fans were underwhelmed. This, of course, had a lot to do with the situation at the time. Sexton wasn’t seen as a point guard of the future, just a failed attempt to convince James staying with the Cavs was the right decision.
James is gone now, and we have to start looking towards the future. With this shift in perspective, Sexton is now becoming one of the key building blocks for a team in dire need of them.
While no one truly expects him to fill the void left from James’ departure, Sexton at the very least provides hope that Cleveland basketball isn’t about to spiral to a new level of futility. Cavs fans now have someone to look forward to watching come the regular season. He’s a player who, despite joining a team which can no longer realistically expect the deep playoff runs we’ve seen in the past four years, still brings a relentless energy to the court any chance gets.
Honestly, just look at this man:
This is a player who’s that energetic and ready to lead during a Summer League game on a team which just lost the best player on the planet. Whether you’re equally punch-drunk on his performance or not, Sexton is the kind of player this franchise needs right now.
Before going further, I do want to hammer a couple things home, just so you know I’m not in the middle of campaigning for Sexton’s place in the Hall of Fame.
One, yes, it’s Summer League. The level of competition is hardly what it’ll be for him come the regular season, so it’s too early to make any predictions on his future. Additionally, I’m not expecting Sexton to immediately take the league by storm, as he has a few aspects of his game which will need fine-tuning in the years ahead.
What I’m pointing out, though, is how different Cavs fans feel about the team now compared to what we endured the first time James left Cleveland, and Sexton is a big reason for this.
Pick any game from the Cavs’ 2010-11 season and look at their roster on that given night. Find me someone, anyone, who at that time made you think, “it stinks LeBron just left, but this guy makes me hopeful for the future.”
Jamario Moon didn’t elicit that feeling. Neither did J.J. Hickson, Christian Eyenga or Alonzo Gee. James took his talents to South Beach and left behind one of the most uninspiring rosters in NBA history.
That doesn’t appear to be the case this time around.
Perhaps this is just an overreaction on my part. Maybe I’m stuck in a phase of the grieving process where the only way to make peace with James leaving is to get overwhelmingly excited about the first person on the Cavs to show promise.
Still, thanks to Sexton, I find myself genuinely looking forward to the next season of Cleveland basketball. It’s a significant departure from the depression we all felt the last time James skipped town.