CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers placed plenty of responsibility on the shoulders of their younger players after undergoing a roster overhaul during the offseason and losing veterans Kevin Love and J.R. Smith from the 2016 NBA Championship squad to injury and personal decisions.
And at times during the season, the Cavaliers struggled to get consistent production from forward Cedi Osman and rookie point guard Collin Sexton, but as of late, the two have been integral parts of the offense, helping Cleveland to an upset win over the Detroit Pistons at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Monday night, which is something that coach Larry Drew relishes.
“Very, very gratifying,” Drew said after the win over the Pistons. “Very, very gratifying. Hoping that it would get to this point to put both of those guys to where they are closing out games. I’ve had them earlier in the season where they’ve been on the bench watching, learning.
“Now, being a really big part of it as far as closing out, finishing off at the end, it was very, very gratifying because both of those guys have come a long, long way, and you can certainly see the growth in their games.”
Drew looks for “growth in certain situations” when breaking down film of practices and games, and believes something is clicking mentally for Osman and Sexton.
“It tells me that these guys are starting to understand,” Drew said. “They’re starting to kind of figure it out, understanding that it is not always going to be perfect. It’s not always going to be a positive result, but what I’m looking for is just growth, and certainly, I’m really seeing it from both guys.”
Already the Cavaliers’ record-holder for made three-pointers by a rookie, passing the mark set by multi-time All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, Sexton tied Austin Carr’s record with his sixth consecutive 23-point game when he tallied 27 in the 126-119 win over the Pistons.
In the 13 games since the All-Star Game break last month, Sexton has increased his made field goals, shooting percentage, three-point percentage, steals and points per game while cutting down on fouls and maintaining an even level of 2.2 turnovers per outing.
Sexton has converted 47.0 percent of his field goal attempts and knocked down 45.8 percent of his three-point tries over an average of 33.7 minutes per game.
Osman has raised his shooting percentage by 2.2 points, three-point shooting by 13.9 percent, total rebounds and assists while cutting down on personal fouls and turnovers in the late-February exhibition game.
“Success is not always necessarily measured on wins and losses,” Drew said. “You have to look at your team. You have to look at situations. You have to look at circumstances. You have to look at the big picture, and for the organization, the big picture is the growth that we see in our young guys. Understanding that this was going to be a tough season because we’ve had a big turnaround.
“Now that we’ve gone to kind of the rebuild mode, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Are those guys the same players they were at the start of the season?’ And by no stretch of the imagination are they. These guys have really, really shown growth.”