Karthik’s Take: Collin Sexton should be an all-star

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Cleveland Cavaliers’ Collin Sexton, left, drives past Brooklyn Nets’ Bruce Brown during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Collin Sexton is a bonafide baller and should be on pace to earn his first all-star game appearance this year. The former 2018 No. 8 overall pick from the University of Alabama has seized his opportunity in Cleveland and become the premiere bright spot for the franchise since the departure of LeBron James. Sexton has increased his point production, assists, field goal percentage, and defensive presence every year he has been in the league and is now averaging 27 points per game while ranking eighth in player efficiency out of all league point guards. After witnessing him score a career-high 42 points in a 147-135 thriller against the fully loaded Brooklyn Nets, including 15 points in double overtime to seal the victory, all doubt about his ceiling as a player has to be cast aside. Collin Sexton has proved himself to be a future perennial all-star and potentially a franchise player.  

The part of his game that stands out as an attribute he has evidently worked to improve is his shot-making versatility and court awareness. He has found ways to initiate early offense by pushing the ball in transition which leads to efficient opportunities at the rim and from the three point line. While his 3.5 assists per game leaves a bit to be desired, the statistic does not capture how much Sexton forces defensive switches with his drives which allows the Cavs to swing the ball around the perimeter to find automatic snipers like Kevin Love. This allows UConn alum Andre Drummond to put in work on the offensive glass for second chance points opportunities. He is adept in finding these efficient angles in which to attack a defense which makes the game easier for his teammates. Against the Brooklyn Nets, Sexton was collapsing the defense at will and putting in tough floaters over the outstretched arms of seven-footers. His speed, which 2K ranks as being tied for 11th in the league out of all players, keeps defenders on edge and allows him to hoist up floaters and jump shots over defenders in traffic, making him pivotal for the Cavaliers late in games. His career 84% shooting from the free throw line also gives further reason for the Cavaliers to want him having the ball late to close out games.  

Legendary NBA head coach Gregg Popovich, who has the third-most wins all-time as an NBA coach, has gone out of his way to commend Sexton’s polished skillset, promise as a player, and blistering work ethic. Popovich is not the only one to recognize Sexton as a mercurial talent. Fellow teammate, five-time all-star and NBA champion Love said that Sexton is one of the hardest workers he has ever seen. Sexton’s other teammates all echo this same sentiment and it speaks volumes to the player’s character, drive to succeed and selflessness to take on any role that will help the Cavaliers win. His positive career progression is heartwarming when seeing how hard he pushes himself to be better and this mamba mentality has been paying serious dividends in the most critical parts of games.  

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Collin Sexton, right, knocks the ball loose from Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

In a game the Cavaliers had no business winning, Sexton displayed a level of poise that only the game’s upper echelon of stars typically exhibit. In a game that featured three future hall of famers Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, he showed that he was the best player on the court. Now some of this product has to be attributed to the exhaustion the Brooklyn Nets must have been experiencing due to their short rotation and heavily extended minutes, but Sexton’s heroics in clutch fourth quarters have started to become a trend.  

Sexton is the 14th youngest player ever to average 25 points per game at age 22 and has so far been shooting an absurd 70% from the field in the fourth quarter during the 2020-21 season. Although 2020-21 is still in its infancy, as of right now, Sexton ranks sixth statistically out of all guards, largely due to his production late in games. This ranking puts Sexton ahead of established stars such as James Harden, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic and others. While Sexton is still working his way up towards exhibiting NBA stardom consistently, do not be surprised if he crosses the threshold from being a really solid starter to an all-star this season. Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff also had nothing but praise and encouraging words for the franchise’s new beacon of hope.  

“He’s a walking bucket,” Bickerstaff said. “There are certain people who have a knack for putting the ball in the basket all sorts of ways. The kid is not afraid of the biggest moments. When we needed a basket, he went and manufactured a basket, and that’s a unique skill. We ought to praise that skill because it helps you on nights like this. We were struggling from the field, having a hard time scoring. Guys are scrapping and fighting, but we couldn’t get it going on the offensive end, so it was great to have a weapon like that that can go get a bucket on demand.” 

I believe Cleveland has finally found their next young all-star in and their heir to guide them to success in their post-Lebron James era of basketball. Sexton is the truth.  

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