Dribbling: No Guarantees, But Gut Says Collin Sexton Returns To Cavs

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles on one of the Cavaliers’ biggest offseason decisions, if not their very biggest.

1. Things could get a little tricky between Collin Sexton and the Cavs. That much we can assume. It’s almost always the case when money is involved.

2. And even if they don’t, guys like me will likely hear they’re tricky, that there is some drama. And guys like me will write it.

3. In other words, Sexton’s free agency and how it is handled will be a story until a deal is done. Along the way, not all of the stories are likely to be rainbows and unicorns.

4. One thing we do know is the Cavs would love to keep Sexton. By all accounts, he wants to be back. But for both sides, the dollars have to make sense.

5. This is unique situation for both Sexton and the Cavs. Let’s start with Sexton.

6. A funny thing happened when he went down with a knee injury, causing him to miss all but 11 games. In Sexton’s absence, Darius Garland became the face of the team.

7. That’s probably not a big deal to Sexton. But keep in mind he was the Cavs’ leading scorer (24.3 ppg) in 2020-21, and even when he went down last season (16.0 ppg). Again, in his absence, Garland became an All-Star.

8. Along with that, the Cavs also became the story of the season — at least until they were derailed by injuries, suffered by Jarrett Allen and others. Either way, what the Cavs learned in the process is that when you put the ball primarily in Garland’s hands, it can change the course of the franchise.

9. So imagine being Sexton. But instead of basketball, let’s apply it to everyday work life. Let’s say you have a job as a computer salesperson. Let’s say you are young, up-and-coming and sell more computers than anyone in your first year. You are praised by those in the industry as the future at your company.

10. Then, because of circumstances, you have to take a year off.

11. When you return, you’re coming back to another young employee who is suddenly receiving all the praise. In fact, in your absence, the company took a major step forward, and it was largely because of the other guy. Sales increased, as did the buzz.

12. This isn’t to say Sexton is jealous of Garland. Don’t read too much into it. But you can probably understand how he might feel. Garland has become the Cavs’ main man. Nothing wrong with that, and as far as we know, there is absolutely zero animosity. Just the opposite. But Sexton is human, and sometimes, these things factor into decisions.

13. And it is decision time for the Cavs and Sexton, a restricted free agent.

14. Given that Sexton is coming off an injury, and the Cavs did very well without him, it’s hard to know what the market will be. Whatever offer he receives, the Cavs can match. If another team overpays him (in the Cavs’ eyes), they can just match, trade him and land something valuable in return.

15. In that sense, it feels like the Cavs will have most of the leverage in the upcoming contract talks.

16. Many of you will ask, “How much are the Cavs willing to pay Sexton?” That’s hard to predict. They will throw out some numbers to the media. So will Sexton’s side. You probably can’t really take any of it seriously. What everyone tells sportswriters and what’s actually discussed at the bargaining table are two different things entirely.

17. But I’m gonna say the Cavs are looking at paying him in the $15-$17 million range annually. Sexton is probably looking for $18 million or more. Again, those are just best guesses. Bottom line: While there is sure to be a difference in what the sides view as fair value, they’re likely not that far apart.

18. As an interesting aside, Sexton is now represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Paul, in my opinion, is the best agent in the game today, and along with David Falk of Michael Jordan fame, one of the top two or three agents in the history of the NBA. Paul gets things done for his clients and is always willing to work with teams. Do not underestimate his role in helping to bring a 2016 championship to Cleveland.

19. But guess who else Paul represents? You guessed it, Garland. I can’t tell you that guarantees Sexton will be back with the Cavs. I don’t think it does. But I think it may increase the odds. Sexton and Garland both have Paul’s ear.

20. Anyway, there are so many things to consider here. Garland and Sexton share an agent. Garland became the face of the Cavs. The Cavs traded for Caris LeVert, who plays Sexton’s position. And Sexton is drawing plenty of interest — with a few league sources telling me even LeBron James‘Lakers are interested. (That’s not happening, but explaining why is another full day of Dribbling.)

21. So what do I predict? That the Cavs and Sexton will be together again. Why? Just a gut feeling. It is my belief that the Cavs, Sexton, Garland and everyone else associated with the franchise thinks it’s for the best. When that’s the case, you find a way to make the money work. Mostly, both sides seem to think it’s way too early to move on. When that’s the case, you stay where you are.

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