HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Cavaliers beat writer Chris Fedor discussed the futures of Collin Sexton, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Cedi Osman. Plus, Jarrett Allen’s chances of being an All-Star, Evan Mobley’s chances to win Rookie of the Year, and more on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.
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1:00 Cavaliers winning streak
Fedor: I think the differences this season are a couple of things. One, I think from top to bottom organizationally, and it trickles down to the roster and coaching staff, there’s a complete buy-in of everything they’re trying to do. There’s an acceptance of who they are and have to play to win games. The other key difference is that they’ve become not just a respectable defensive team, but they’ve become one of the best defensive teams in the NBA because of what they have in their front line, including Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley anchoring the paint.
2:30 When Cavaliers players could be out of protocols?
Fedor: I’ve talked to a couple of the players that have entered the protocols. Not all of them have gotten back to me, but a couple of them. From what I can gather, the majority of the guys in the protocol that I’ve talked to either have no symptoms, or their symptoms are very mild.
It seems like if a guy goes in the health and safety protocols, it’s usually about two weeks give or take. When Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen went in, it was a little bit more than two weeks for both of those guys. Unless something drastically changes, and a negative test turns up, and then another negative test turns up, I think we’re probably looking for the Cavaliers to be without some of these key pieces through the end of this calendar year and not get them back until January.
4:25 Is Evan Mobley the Rookie of the Year favorite?
Scotto: When I was talking to people preparing for the draft, including some scouts and executives, people looked at Evan Mobley as a guy comparable to a young Chris Bosh… His defense has affected winning for the Cavaliers and how they’ve surprised people this year.
Fedor: I think he’s the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year right now. I understand Scottie Barnes has been great for Toronto. I think the thing that separates Evan from Scottie is the way the Cavaliers are winning. You can look at Jarrett Allen and the way he’s played. He’s going to be in the All-Star conversation. Darius Garland. Same thing. There are other components to this. Ricky Rubio’s been a great veteran coming off the bench. Kevin Love has bought into his role. But, you look at the Cavaliers with and without Mobley and what their net rating is, what their defensive rating is, and their record with and without him. He’s contributing to winning in a different kind of way than Barnes.
In terms of expectations, I remember talking to a number of people inside the organization coming into the year. One of the things they said is, “We understand how great he is. We scouted him at USC. We were thrilled when he was available at No. 3. The Cavaliers were giddy when they heard the Houston Rockets were leaning towards Jalen Green over Mobley because they liked him that much.
Scotto: When the Cavaliers drafted Mobley, a lot of people, including Jarrett Allen, wondered, “How’s this going to fit?”
MORE: Jarrett Allen: ‘We’re definitely shooting for the playoffs’
9:40 Will Jarrett Allen be an All-Star?
Scotto: (Former Nets coach) Kenny Atkinson always said Jarrett Allen’s ceiling would be in between a Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert type of player. I think this year, we’re starting to see that metamorphosis. Where the Cavaliers stand in the East, I think, they’re almost owed a representative in the Eastern Conference. To me, if you’re going to pick one Cleveland Cavalier that absolutely should be in the All-Star Game, in my opinion, it would be Allen right now.
Fedor: I think he’s played at an All-Star level. Sometimes, you have guys that play at an All-Star level that you can make a strong argument that deserves to be in the game, but there aren’t enough spots. There’s part of me that wonders if there’s enough room for somebody like Jarrett? I’d make the argument he belongs. The way it’s set up is backcourt and frontcourt. If you’re talking about frontcourt players, he’s competing with Giannis (Antetokounmpo), probably DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant will get in there. Julius Randle gets in there? Joel Embiid.
12:30 Kevin Love
Scotto: I asked Jarrett (Allen) what was the vibe with Kevin Love coming off the bench, and he said he’s been a great teammate.
Fedor: I think Kevin is at the heart of everything the Cavaliers are about this season. I want to clarify that because he hasn’t been their best or second-best player, but there is a complete buy-in. Everybody is understanding of their role and bought into their role because they recognize it’s best for not only them but team success. For Kevin, a future Hall of Famer, somebody who has accomplished more in his career than anyone on this roster, to be willing to come off the bench and accept that role and thrive, it helps set a tone of sacrifice.
In terms of trades, Kevin jokes all the time that he’s been in trade rumors since the moment he arrived in Cleveland back in 2014 from the Timberwolves. The Cavaliers stayed firm over the last couple of years that they were not going to attach a first-round pick or salary dump him. They said to everybody around the league, willing to listen, “We believe Kevin can be an asset. We’re going to try and get the most out of Kevin rather than just salary dumping him and giving up an asset just to move on from him. That doesn’t benefit us.”
Scotto: I think looking more towards next year when his contract is an expiring contract, then it really becomes an asset, ironically… That last year is pretty good if you have to salary match or a team wants to do a salary dump.
Fedor: I think Ricky (Rubio) has been huge. I think the other guy we have to mention, too, in terms of helping Kevin be the best version of Kevin is JB Bickerstaff, the head coach. Kevin has a great relationship with JB. Kevin has a great relationship with Bernie Bickerstaff within the Cavaliers’ front office. Their families are very close. When Kevin was going through everything he was going through, this past offseason, coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, was a very frustrating time for him. Then, all the stuff that happened with Team USA. The guy that was right there next to him, being honest with him, having tough conversations, and trying to talk him through all of that was JB Bickerstaff.
The built-in trust between JB and Kevin goes all the way back to Kevin’s early days in Minnesota.
Scotto: Coming into the year, some people wondered if he’d have kind of a Blake Griffin situation, get bought out, and people were speculating maybe he’d go to the Lakers… because of his relationship with Russell Westbrook.
17:20 Ricky Rubio
Scotto: Coming into the year, some around the league wondered if Ricky Rubio would be a short-term veteran mentor, and then maybe the Cavaliers would flip him at the trade deadline. But the Cavaliers value him according to the people in the organization I speak to certainly this season with what he can bring.
Fedor: I think there are people inside the organization that have had conversations about the possibility of giving him a contract extension and keeping him beyond this year. The way he’s played, he’s shown he can still play at a high level.
24:20 Collin Sexton injury update and future
Fedor: I’ve talked to a couple of people close to Collin, and they say the same thing they always say. When it comes to Collin, he doesn’t do anything half a**. He attacks it full throttle, and he’s attacked his rehab in the same kind of way. The belief is because Collin is such a worker, he’s going to come back better, and he’s going to come back stronger. That’s his goal.
Scotto: His future with the Cavaliers is what? Is there a scenario where he takes a qualifying offer or short-term deal that he can rebuild his value? It’s going to be a dry market this year. We saw that last year. Ask Lauri Markkanen how it was on the restricted free agency market. Unless you’re signing with your own team and getting paid, or you get a sign-and-trade, it’s going to be tough.
Fedor: Part of the reason why the Cavaliers in the Collin Sexton discussions went the way they did is, from the very beginning, they were looking at it saying, “We’re okay if this goes into restricted free agency.” Restricted free agency is built in to protect us from making a decision that’s not in the best interest of the organization financially. Members of the organization that I talked to leading into those conversations were able to rattle off the teams with projected cap space for this coming summer like it was their own phone number. There were like four. It could’ve grown to six.
What I kept hearing was, “Which one of those four teams are going to give him a big offer in restricted free agency that we’re not going to match? Which one of those teams is going to take Collin from us?”
I’ve been wondering if there’s a reality that exists for Collin that he may have to take the qualifying offer because of this injury, the limited teams with cap space, because of the dry market. Because of this injury, he may turn into the forgotten man in this free agency class… I think there is a chance he plays this year on the qualifying offer.
I think it’s a complicated situation because the Cavaliers still value Collin and still believe in Collin. He was the guy who really started this rebuild. He was the centerpiece of the Kyrie Irving deal. He’s done everything and more of what they’ve asked of him. He was a draft hit with the eighth overall pick. He was 18th in the NBA in scoring. You can’t take somebody who can roll out of bed and get 20 points a night on pretty good efficiency and take that for granted, and the Cavaliers don’t. The question will come can they find somebody who can do some of the same things Collin does at what may end up being a cheaper price. If that answer is yes, then I think they could move on from Collin potentially in a trade.
Scotto: It seemed like in talking with others around the league outside the organization, they always felt Cleveland would have to break up Darius Garland and Collin Sexton because they can’t keep paying all these guys with luxury tax implications.
Some executives view Collin Sexton as a high-end sixth man type of player, maybe in a Jordan Clarkson role as a combo guard that can score off the bench.
30:00 Darius Garland
Scotto: Darius Garland has emerged this year. He was a guy that NBA executives in our HoopsHype poll voted as the top breakout player for the year. He’s been more efficient… I think there becomes a question here whether Cleveland moves on from Collin to let Darius continue to grow as the main guy and point guard of the future?
MORE: Darius Garland: ‘Our expectations are to make the playoffs’
Fedor: It’s something they’re going to have to consider. No doubt about it. One thing they’ll say is Darius was playing well at the beginning of the season even when Collin was out there. The team was winning games with both of them healthy. Collin was playing off the ball more than he ever had throughout the course of his young career. I think they still believe they both can coexist, and their games can complement each other, provided Collin continues to be comfortable in this off-the-ball role.
I think one thing we can say is the hierarchy of importance when it comes to the young core of Cavaliers players has drastically changed over the last 12-18 months. A lot of people always point to the fact the Cavaliers propped up Collin Sexton, pushed him hard for All-Rookie, and always marketed him. Part of the reason they did that is because they had nobody else to do that with. Who were they going to push for the forefront? Cedi Osman? Kevin Love when he was injured a bunch? Larry Nance Jr.? At one time, Collin was their best player and the guy who was most likely to be pushed into the spotlight. That’s changed.
Now, when you talk about the young core of this team and the importance of their players, Evan Mobley is at the top. Then, Darius Garland. Then, Jarrett Allen. Then, Lauri Markkanen. You go down the list, and suddenly, Collin’s been pushed further down that list, and maybe that turns into a situation where they put him into a role that many other people around the NBA feel like he should be in.
Coming into this year, the problem the Cavaliers ran into — and they were considering this up until the opener — they were considering putting Isaac Okoro in the starting lineup next to Darius Garland instead of Collin Sexton.
33:29 Cavaliers Trade Deadline
Scotto: Before the season, when I did my column for HoopsHype on the top trade candidate for each team, I talked to people around the league and Cedi Osman was the guy. He’s been available over the years since he signed his extension.
Fedor: I think they’re going to be buyers. I think there’s a recognition that if the cost makes sense to acquire a player, they’ll explore that. One of the things, since this rebuild started, is they’ve always shied away from breaking up the core. I think if you look around the roster, the front office still believes that there are some ancillary pieces that probably have some value. They also have a first-round pick that they may be more willing to give up because it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a high lottery pick the way that many people predicted coming into this year. They may be willing to part with that with some protections and something along those lines.
Caris LeVert is a name to watch there. I think if the Brooklyn Nets decide that they want to make some changes, Joe Harris is somebody the Cavaliers would be very interested in. Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic fits the bill as well.
Coming into this year, a lot of people said if the Cavaliers were going to make any blockbuster trade or improvement, they needed to find a small forward. They needed to find a three. Ben Simmons was brought up. Jerami Grant. Brandon Ingram. Those guys were brought up both internally and externally. They believe in Lauri Markkanen’s ability to play the three now.
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Scotto: I could see a scenario where that first-round pick gets included in talks, Cedi Osman too. I think Dylan Windler is a guy to keep an eye on.
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You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) and Chris Fedor (@ChrisFedor) on Twitter.