The 2018 NBA Draft class has been very impressive in their first season in the NBA. Guys like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, DeAndre Ayton, and Jaren Jackson Jr. look like they will be cornerstone pieces for many years to come. Additionally, Kevin Huerter, Landry Shamet, Josh Okogie, Rodions Kurucs, Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have proven they belong as rotational guys. Finally, Marvin Bagley III, Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., and Kevin Knox have the potential to be very impactful down the road. I just named 15 draft picks from the 2018 class. All of these players are either on their way to stardom, have shown they will be impactful role players for years to come, or have the potential to turn into great NBA players. One player I left off that list that definitely belongs is Collin “Young Bull” Sexton.
Sexton got off to a slow start in his first season in the NBA. Through February, Sexton was averaging 15.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. While the numbers don’t look bad for a rookie, Sexton shot just 40.6% from the field, even though his 39.4% three-point percentage was respectable. For the Cavs’ rookie, having a usage rate above 24% through February of his rookie year was producing stats, but not very efficiently.
In the month of March, Sexton has flipped a switch. Averaging 22.7 points, 3 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game on 51.1% shooting from the field and 49% from three, Sexton has gained efficiency. Check out his gaudy numbers over his previous six games. After going through some ups and downs early in the season, it appears that Sexton has found a groove.
Those efficient numbers are something that rookies shouldn’t be able to do. Let’s break down what has made Sexton’s recent surge so impressive.
Attacking the rim
Going into the draft, everyone knew that Collin Sexton could push the pace and play fast at the point guard position. That has come to fruition in the month of March. Sexton has been pushing the ball down the court and taking on bigger defenders at the rim to finish through contact. In the first clip below, Sexton picks the pocket of Reggie Jackson, then attacks him in the open court. Sexton does a great job of using his body at the rim to shield Jackson off, which allows for an easy off-hand finish.
This time in a half-court set, Sexton uses a spin move to attack his defender to get to the rim. Sexton again uses his physicality and a nifty spin move to reach the rim for a tough finish with the left hand. Although he isn’t a big point guard (6’ 2”, 190 lbs), his physicality and body control in the paint give him an advantage against smaller defenders.
Again in the half-court set, Sexton uses his quickness to blow by Jackson as he rejects a screen, then proceeds to finish over Andre Drummond. Drummond is one of the best rim protecting bigs in the NBA, but Sexton’s quickness and lift on the layup allows him to get the layup over the Pistons’ big man.
In the final clip, I believe this is one of the most impressive. Sexton uses his speed and quickness to get Marc Gasol on his heels backpedaling towards the rim. It doesn’t matter how big a defender is, if they are backpedaling trying to contain an explosive drive to the basket, it’s going to be hard to defend. I don’t know about you, but this drive to the basket reminded me of a certain point guard with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
These three clips against the Pistons and one against the Raptors gives a glimpse of what Sexton can do at the rim. He’s shooting 56% at the rim this season, which is about 10% lower than the likes of Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry, but he’s shown the ability with good body control and lift at the rim to be a deadly scorer on the attack.
Sexton’s shooting from three is one area of his game that has been consistent throughout his entire rookie season. He’s had two bad months shooting from three (October and December), but every other month he’s been above 40% shooting from deep. I’ve recently been impressed with his rhythm pull-up shots that he’s been hitting. In the first example below, Sexton gets a great screen and smoothly pulls up in rhythm. There is no hitch to his shot, and it’s clear that the confidence is there for the rook.
In another recent game against the Raptors, I love the clip below because it emphasizes Sexton taking what the defense gives him. Coming off a screen, Pascal Siakam is sagging off Sexton, clearly playing the drive to the rim. So, Sexton calmly pulls up and knocks down a smooth three. If Sexton can continue to develop his attacks to the rim, it will force the defense to sag on some of his threes, giving him more freedom to pull from deep.
Areas to improve
Collin Sexton is developing at a good rate, but there are still major areas to improve upon. While Sexton doesn’t turn the ball over at a high rate (2.2 TPG), there are times when he gets out of control with the ball. In the example below, Sexton tries to attack three Raptor defenders, which causes him to lose the ball in the lane. Although Sexton recovers and winds up with an assist on the possession, this is an opportunity for Sexton to take a floater before meeting the defense in the lane, or kick out to an open shooter on the perimeter.
Another key area for Sexton to improve on is his passing game. Sexton is averaging just 2.9 assists per game this season, which ranks 82nd in the NBA. With his usage rate constantly over 24%, Sexton should be using his driving ability to collapse the defense and find open guys. While the Cavs don’t have a lot of shooters around Sexton, his passing game will be an area that needs to take step forward for Sexton to continue his development.
Overall, Collin Sexton is having a productive rookie year. On a Cavs team that is looking for a top-five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Sexton has been bright spot and a positive building block for Cleveland moving forward.