Cavaliers Rumors: Coaches Ordered to Praise Collin Sexton amid Rookie Struggles

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 6, 2021

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 14: Collin Sexton #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dribbles the ball during the game against the Atlanta Hawks on March 14, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers apparently went the extra mile to accommodate point guard Collin Sexton during his first season in the NBA.

The Athletic's Jason Lloyd wrote Thursday that members of the Cavaliers staff "were ordered to continue playing him" and "continually praise him" when Sexton struggled on the court as a rookie.

Cleveland was forced to reset following LeBron James' departure in 2018. Sexton, the No. 8 pick in that year's NBA draft, was the closest thing the franchise had to a young foundational piece on the roster. The front office might have felt a level of pressure for the former Alabama star to thrive because he was the last chance to salvage anything from the Kyrie Irving trade after Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder had been quickly shipped out.

But there's a balance between shielding a rookie from undue criticism and holding a player accountable.

The way in which the Cavs handled Sexton may be coming back around for the team.

The 22-year-old is a dynamic scorer who's averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Still, it's unclear whether putting him in such a prominent role—he has a 29.2 percent usage rate, per Basketball Reference—is beneficial for Cleveland as a whole.

At 21-45, the Cavaliers are headed for their third straight losing season, and their .318 winning percentage isn't much higher than last year (.292).

According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, some members of the roster "still grow frustrated by the way Sexton dominates the ball," and opposing players have even dished out trash talk to that effect.

Sexton addressed the general criticism of his game on Monday.

"They say I can’t be a point guard," he told reporters. "Now these next stretch of games I’m going to go out there and show them I can do both—run the team and score the ball as well, and be efficient with it. I pretty much just take the criticism and run with it, and just have them look crazy down the stretch."

In the Cavs' last two losses since those comments, he had 11 assists and six turnovers while scoring 44 points.

Sexton can become a restricted free agent in 2022, and he's eligible for an extension this summer.

Because the Cavs aren't a marquee free-agent destination, holding on to homegrown stars is imperative. At the same time, they can't give Sexton a blank check for the reasons outlined above. Darius Garland, who's putting up 17.7 points and 6.2 assists per game, is emerging as a better option at the point as well.

Cleveland is quickly reaching a point where it needs to determine Sexton's fit within the organization.