What are we doing here?
That’s the question the Cleveland Cavaliers need to be asking themselves as they make their way through the season. Coming into the year, the answer was trying to make the playoffs in a life without LeBron James. As noted yesterday, this should no longer be the case.
As a result, the Cavs might as well go ahead and adjust their plans for the 2018-19 season now instead of waiting to see if this thing gets any uglier.
They can kick said process off by giving rookie point guard Collin Sexton the starting role.
To be fair, I had no complaints when coach Tyronn Lue announced Sexton would open the season coming off the bench. At just 19-years-old, he’s a little raw. On top of this, the Cavs had convinced themselves a playoff spot was within reach this year, so they understandably decided to give the starting gig to veteran George Hill.
On paper, the idea of having Sexton sit back and learn a bit while Cleveland attempted to contend made sense to me.
As mentioned, though, said goal has been scrapped. This is not a playoff team, far from it. Therefore, it no longer makes sense to prioritize a steady veteran presence over an up-and-coming rookie.
To clarify, I’m not so much saying Hill has played terribly, while Sexton has been too good to keep on the bench.
The latter has had a bit of an uneven start to his rookie campaign, with some wildly inconsistent showings in his first three games. While he’s since steadied his scoring touch, Sexton still needs to work on being a distributor, as he’s averaging a measly 1.8 assists per game.
On the other end, Hill has actually played decently for Cleveland so far. He’s averaging 12 PPG, on par with his career numbers, and is currently shooting 52.2% from the field.
Again, though, this isn’t about Hill needing to be relegated so he can get out of the way of an extremely more talented Sexton.
It’s about the fact the Cavs aren’t playing for anything this year beyond landing high in the draft lottery.
With that in mind, why would they still start Hill? What negative impact is there to worry about when it comes swapping him out for Sexton?
If the team is worried about how such a move would affect the season, well, I’m not sure I’d understand that.
Again, the Cavs aren’t going anywhere this year. The talk of playoffs got dashed when this team opened the season 0-5 and got mauled by two lottery teams.
As a result, ensuring veterans like Hill get starter’s minutes serves no purpose. Mainly because, come the end of the season, he’ll serve no purpose for the Cavs, if he’s still even on the roster by then.
Sexton, however, was drafted to be Cleveland’s point guard of the future, the player who’ll be running the offense for years to come. He’s no franchise star just yet, and still has a lot to learn. At this point, though, there’s no sense in holding him back so vets like Hill can be appeased.
With this season already feeling like a lost cause, one of the priorities for the rest of the year ought to be fast-tracking Sexton. Get the growing pains out of the way early, knowing they’ll hardly have an impact on the final score. Ensure he’s ready to go come next year when Cleveland (hopefully) adds another top-tier rookie to the mix.
For what it’s worth, it does appear Lue is making this realization. Sexton has been allowed to play the entire fourth quarter twice in the first five games, hinting he may already be earning the team’s trust.
The next step is making him the starter.
This is no longer about pleasing veterans in an ill-fated attempt to make something out of this already-lost season. Playing the more experienced members of the team is only important if you’re trying to win now.
I think it’s safe to say that ship has sailed. As a result, it’s time for the Cavs to hand the keys over to their rookie.