CLEVELAND — Between "Hot Rod," "Reignman," "Z," "King James" and "Young Bull, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a storied history when it comes to nicknames.
You can now add "Ice" to the list.
With the No. 5 pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, the Cavs selected Auburn forward Isaac Okoro. And while he hasn't had his nickname for long, the story behind how the 2020 SEC All-Defensive team selection came to be known as "Ice" lends some insight into the type of player Cleveland is getting with its latest draft pick.
"I got it during my sophomore year in high school. I hit a game-winning shot against Wheeler," Okoro said during a virtual introductory press conference with the Cavs on Friday. "After that, my coach had just nicknamed me ice. So I do plan on keeping it."
While it was his offense that led to his nickname, it's Okoro's defense that made him a top-five pick in this year's draft. According to ESPN's Mike Schmitz, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward profiles as a potential NBA All-Defense selection thanks to his "excellent lateral quickness, high intensity level and sound technique."
So perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that when asked by Cavs general manager Koby Altman during the pre-draft process whether he'd prefer to make a shot or get a stop to win a game, Okoro opted for the latter. That, it appears, was music to the ears of a franchise that has ranked last in the NBA in defensive efficiency in each of the past two seasons and is looking to make a step forward in what will be third season of its second post-LeBron James rebuild.
"He's a versatile defender," Altman said. "There's a bunch we can do with him. And again, his want to guard the other team's best player. I think that's huge. That's where it has to start. There's a lot of guys who run from that but he's somebody who wants that matchup every single night. And on the perimeter, you look at the league and that's where the league is based. It's a perimeter-oriented league."
To that end, Okoro will need to improve on the 28.6 percent he shot from 3-point range during the lone season of his college career in order to stay on the floor on a consistent basis at the NBA level. Both the player and team are confident, however, that with his work ethic, it'll only be a matter of time before "Ice" reminds the league how he got his nickname in the first place.
"It's just about getting in the gym every day and working on it," Okoro said. "Just early mornings, late nights, getting with the coaches and the managers and working on my shot every single day to just get it better."