Waiting for LeBron
Cavs make pick, not knowing James’ status
INDEPENDENCE — The Cavaliers selected a point guard and pitch man.
Moments after the team selected Collin Sexton with the No. 8 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night, the Alabama playmaker made his appeal for LeBron James to resign with Cleveland.
“Man, LeBron, let’s do it,” Sexton said during ESPN’s telecast from the draft in Brooklyn. “Let’s do it. You’ve needed a few extra pieces this past season, and let’s do it. Let’s go back to the Finals.”
The Cavs are hoping Sexton — and perhaps a few more tweaks to their roster — will help convinces James that there is no reason for him to leave home for the second time in his career.
Sexton averaged 19.2 points and 3.6 assists as a freshman for the Crimson Tide, and the 19-year-old also led the school to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. The confident 6-foot-3, 190-pounder is a proven scorer and he addresses a major need for the Cavs, who traded All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston last year and spent all season trying to replace him.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue started eight different point guards during the regular season.
Despite their issues at guard, James led the Cavs to their fourth straight Finals, but they sorely missed Irving and didn’t have nearly enough firepower to hang with the Golden State Warriors, who swept them and won their third title in four years.
Cleveland used the pick to draft Sexton — previously owned by Brooklyn — that it received from the Celtics in the Irving trade.
The Cavs’ front office led by general manager Koby Altman entered the draft in the dark on James’ plans. The three-time champion must notify the team by June 29 on whether he intends to opt out of his $35.6 million contract for next season — a move he is expected to make.
Sexton has been on Cleveland’s radar for some time. The day after the Cavs lost Game 4 in the Finals, Sexton worked out at the team’s facility and owner Dan Gilbert referred to him as a “very intriguing draft prospect” on Twitter.
While Sexton certainly improves the Cavs’ backcourt and adds a young player capable of breaking down defenders, there is no guarantee it will do anything to impact what James will do.
In the meantime, Sexton has his fingers crossed that he and James will soon be teammates.
“He’s one of the best players to ever play basketball,” Sexton said. “Just being able to come in and learn from him, it’ll be big for me and big for my growth.”
James will factor family and his quest to win more championships into his decision. The 33-year-old has been unusually quiet on social media since the Finals ended and he has given no hints about his future.
If James doesn’t stay in Cleveland, there’s a strong chance he’ll look to join the Los Angeles Lakers, who have salary-cap room to sign two maximum contract players. James already owns two homes and a film production company in Southern California.
Based on his wardrobe for the draft, Sexton may have had an inkling Cleveland was going to take him. He wore a crimson-and-black tuxedo jacket that perfectly complemented the wine-colored Cavs cap he was given before taking the stage to shake hands with Commissioner Adam Silver.
Sexton burst on the national scene last season with several strong performances, including a 40-point game against Minnesota when Alabama had to play 10 minutes with just three players because of disqualifications.
He went on to be named the SEC’s top newcomer and a first-team all-conference selection.
“It just shows all my hard work paid off,” Sexton said. “I just grinded, started from the bottom and came back up to the top. That was the biggest thing, just show people what I can do.”
Sexton said he had one of his better workouts with the Cavs, and that while he was in Cleveland he attended Game 4 of the Finals.
The Cavs passed on a chance to take Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., whose back issues have caused him to drop in the draft. Porter was selected No. 14 by Denver.