Collin Sexton is still very much an unfinished project. At 20 years old, it’d too much to expect otherwise.
That said, the growth shown by the Cleveland Cavaliers guard continues to be displayed in Year 2 of his NBA career.
Take a look y'all pic.twitter.com/sb2bqhXsgt
— 𝙅𝙪𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙣 𝙍𝙤𝙬𝙖𝙣 🇨🇦 (@Cavsanada) November 11, 2019
It’s ironic to be noting this now, just about one year after his rookie debut got off to the worst start you could imagine. However, instead of crumbling under the wave of adversity that hit him almost immediately after the 2018 season began, all Sexton has done since is overwhelmingly earn the trust of his veteran teammates.
Proof of this has been apparent throughout the past few games. Whether it be his 31-point showing Sunday against the New York Knicks, or Sexton showing off enough confidence to pull off something like this.
— Jordan Zirm (@clevezirm) October 31, 2019
It’s difficult to watch this and not think about where things stood with Sexton at this time last year.
Back then, Cleveland was a rudderless ship, getting waxed on a nightly basis. LeBron James had bailed for L.A., while the front office’s attempt to contend despite his departure was proven to be a laughable flop after only a couple games.
The veterans James left behind were angry, and in Sexton, they found someone to focus their frustration towards.
After just a handful of games, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported vets were accusing Sexton of not knowing his role or even what to do on the court. Per Vardon, the vibe surrounding the then-rookie guard was that he “did not know how to play.”
Hearing this so early in your first year in the NBA is one thing. What made it worse was the fact Sexton’s teammates were dumping on him anonymously.
Put yourself in his shoes. You’re 19 years old. Just days after you were drafted, your team’s best player bails. Not even ten games into your professional career, the teammates you’re leaning on for advice are instead namelessly shaming you to local media.
It’d seem only natural for circumstances like these to cause Sexton’s confidence to take a nosedive.
For a minute, it sure looked like that’s exactly what happened.
As losses piled up for the Cavs, Sexton’s struggles continued. His PPG, shooting percentage and field goal attempts continued to decrease by the month. He entered this past February failing to shoot above 31% from the floor for four straight games.
All in all, it sure seemed like the brutal start to his NBA career derailed any potential he may have had.
Flash forward to this season. Sexton came into tonight leading the Cavs with 18.8 PPG. He’s seeing year-over-year increases in almost every offensive stat. The aforementioned debut season which appeared to have fallen off the tracks ended with Sexton making the NBA All-Rookie team.
Most importantly, those same teammates who felt compelled to anonymously accuse Sexton of not knowing how to win were the first to celebrate with him after he dunked on someone eight inches taller than he was.
Sexton’s turnaround is astounding on its own. That it happened after such a tumultuous start to his NBA career, one which created doubt within the locker room and the front office, makes it all the more impressive.
Despite enduring adversity which could’ve easily shattered his confidence for good, he never buckled, never let his effort waver. Sexton kept plowing through, until he earned the trust of anyone who initially doubted what he could bring to the franchise.
The rebuild the Cavs are enduring is dependent upon the younger players on the roster hitting their potential. While he still has a ways to go, Sexton is trending the right direction, something many within the organization didn’t see coming around this time last year.