Whether America will be as focused on LeBron James’ Decision 3.0 as it was on the first two versions remains an open question but at least one American will be paying very close attention.
That American is Collin Sexton.
The former University of Alabama guard will certainly go in the first round of Thursday night’s National Basketball Association Draft. Most projections have him in a range between the No. 6 pick and the No. 11 pick. Cleveland sits squarely in that bracket at No. 8 and, as anyone who watched the Cavaliers’ playoff run come to a screeching halt knows that one Cav flaw — not the only one, but a glaring one — was the lack of a premier point guard. Sexton is young and could probably live a more peaceful life without constant Kyrie Irving comparisons. But if Cleveland is going to try and keep James on his close-to-home team, instead of heading into a rebuilding stretch, a part of the package will depend on what general manager Koby Altman does with that No. 8 pick.
“You’re walking into the wilderness of the unknown where you are at 8,” ESPN analyst Bobby Marks, a former assistant general manager with the Brooklyn Nets, said on a Monday teleconference. “How do you block out the draft compared to LeBron’s decision eight days later? How do you try to separate it?”
That might mean drafting Sexton and hoping he matures quickly, providing a unique talent to complement James. It could mean trading the pick and giving another team a shot at Sexton (if he is still on the board at that point.)
“I think the hard part for Koby would come (is) what happens when there is a potential trade that is presented to (Cleveland) and he can bring back players, NBA-level players. If that’s the case … on Thursday night, how do you go about doing it without a commitment from LeBron? What’s the communication line between the front office and LeBron to run a scenario like that? I think there has to be some type of communication with that where they go at (No.) 8.
“You are looking at players that can come in and help you now — like Collin Sexton — or a player that could probably help you two years from now in Michael Porter, Jr. If he’s still there, it’s probably going to take him a little time coming off that injury. (So) this is not an easy draft for Koby because retaining the pick is basically your selling point to LeBron going into the off-season.”
There are other directions that Cleveland could take, even if it is determined to keep the pick and stick with the point guard position — Trae Young of Oklahoma is a possibility, as is Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been moving up draft boards lately. Or, as Marks noted, Cleveland could roll the dice on Porter, the star who played briefly at Missouri last year, or perhaps Kentucky’s Kevin Knox.
However, he did not think that there were concerns about Sexton’s ability to translate as an 82-game-per year NBA player.
“Personally, I don’t have any questions about his body type,” Marks said. “Maybe he doesn’t weigh 200 pounds, but he’s strong and he plays strong. He is maybe the most competitive player in the draft in terms of being a willing defender. He doesn’t shy away from contact. I mean, he got to the free-throw line over 10 times per 40 minutes, which kind of speaks to his aggressiveness and his yearning for physicality.
“Yeah, he’s not 6’5″ with a 6’10” wingspan, but I do think he plays strong and he’s very competitive.”
Whether that pairs well with LeBron may tell the story on Sexton’s destination on Thursday night.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.