INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Collin Sexton arrived on center stage wearing a maroon jacket and a large smile.
The former Alabama point guard was clearly excited to be drafted by the Cavaliers with the No. 8 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
He was mostly excited about the possibility of playing alongside LeBron James. Of course, that’s far from a sure thing, as James can opt out of his contract June 29 and become an unrestricted free agent. That is what he’s expected to do.
But Sexton gave his best pitch nonetheless.
“LeBron, let’s do it,” Sexton said on ESPN. “I see you need a few pieces. … Let’s do it.”
Sexton spent one season at Alabama, playing for former NBA guard and current Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson. He has drawn favorable comparisons to Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.
Those are some pretty lofty heights, as Oladipo gave the Cavs fits in the first-round of the playoffs, and Mitchell was a legitimate rookie of the year candidate.
Both are dynamic guards who can handle the ball and get to the basket.
Sexton proved to be that type of player in college. And two huge reasons the Cavs selected him? Flat-out toughness and unmatched confidence.
“Of all the guys I’ve coached, and played against in the NBA, he was arguably the fastest guy I’ve seen with and without the basketball,” Johnson said. “That’s a strong statement. But he’s got a lot of room to grow. He’s going to get better.”
Sexton clearly has fun playing the game, plays with a little swagger and even talks a little trash. Not long ago, a video went viral of an AAU-level Sexton yelling to NBA legend Penny Hardaway that Hardaway’s son “can’t guard me.”
THE LEBRON FACTOR
So what does Sexton’s selection actually mean to James?
Probably not a whole lot. While it’s been reported that James is a Sexton fan … the two have never met and it’s hard to envision a draft pick moving the needle enough to sway LeBron’s decision.
He’s more likely to want the Cavs to make some deals for proven, highly-decorated veteran.
That doesn’t mean Sexton is on his way out. It just means the Cavs will have to get creative to try to build a better roster if they intend to do it without trading away their prized draft pick.
But they can worry about all that after LeBron announces where he will play next season.
For now, the Cavs can bring in Sexton, get him acclimated to Cleveland, put him on the summer-league roster and watch him go.
He averaged 19.2 points and 3.6 assists with the Crimson Tide, averages that indicate he’s much more scorer than facilitator. But he’s also a determined and athletic defender, and with or without LeBron, the Cavs could certainly use more than that.
“It just shows all my hard work paid off,” Sexton told ESPN. “I just grinded. I started at the bottom and came back to the top.”
Now, he’s ready to win. And he knows how critical LeBron is to that mission in Cleveland.
“Let’s go back to the Finals,” he said. “Let’s do it.”
If that pitch is successful, then Sexton has already been an immensely valuable addition to these Cavs.