The Cavaliers have made Sexton “very available” in trade negotiations, according to The Athletic. They fear giving him a maximum rookie contract extension due to a possible awkward pairing with young point guard Darius Garland.
Johnson, the former Nets coach and CBS Sports’ top college basketball analyst, would recommend the Knicks make the trade. He spoke to several Knicks officials ahead of the 2018 draft, when Cleveland selected Sexton in eighth overall.
“Maybe a change of scenery will be better for him,” Johnson told The Post in a telephone interview. “I would love if he had the opportunity to play for the Knicks. I love the direction of this organization – the coaching staff, the front office, making the playoffs last year with some really good, young plays. If that were to happen, it would be welcome – I can’t speak for him – but as a former coach I would really love the opportunity. “
Not everyone is looking for bright lights, but Johnson thinks Sexton is perfect for the bigger scene.
“Of course he’s vibrant and Broadway is going to love this kid,” Johnson said. “It’s a magnet. He’s an entertainer. Broadway fans, Spike Lee, Knicks, all would kiss Collin. It is very marketable. “
The Knicks are desperate for a point guard. Sexton has played more shooting guard since the Cavaliers drafted Garland in 2019.
But Johnson, a former Spurs point guard, believes Sexton can run the show at ‘1’. Although Sexton averaged a career-high 24.3 points and shot 37.1% from 3 points last season, one of his biggest drawbacks is having been an integral part of three horrible teams of Cavaliers. Also, some scouts don’t see him as a playmaker.
“You don’t really have the classic playmaker these days,” Johnson said. “They mark the ball. Whether it’s the point guard, the point guard, whatever you call it, he has the gift and the ability to lead a team. I had front row seats to watch him grow and with his leadership skills he is very vocal, lively. I think his skills will translate into the leadership position. “
The question the Knicks need to ask themselves before making a trade is whether Sexton is worth the five-year $ 168 million rookie extension he will be eligible for until the end of October. Of course, if the Knicks bought him, they could sign him on a shorter contract. The Knicks could also simply wait to sign him next summer, when he will be a restricted free agent.
An NBA personnel manager said there are some intangibles that don’t favor Sexton.
“He’s going to want the maximum because he thinks he’s the best point guard in the league,” said one talented NBA man. “He’s a dominant personality and the feeling isn’t that all players like him. “
We don’t know if there are any problems in the Cavaliers’ locker room. But there were a lot of casualties in northeast Ohio.
Cleveland, in fact, would like a solid veteran in a Sexton package – which would put the Knicks at a disadvantage over the Pacers, Heat, Pelicans and Lakers.
Instead, the Knicks have a mine of futures, including two first-round picks (19, 21) in the July 29 draft. They also have two second round picks (32, 58). And they have two of their last three consumable lottery picks, Kevin Knox (taken a spot after Sexton in 2018) and Obi Toppin, who Cleveland loved in the 2020 Draft.
It should be noted that Toppin, buried behind Julius Randle, and Sexton have the same representative of the Creative Artists Agency in Austin Brown.
Sexton has had four different head coaches and, according to The (Cleveland) Plain-Dealer, 52 teammates.
When asked to rate his three seasons, Johnson said, “He’s improved. He is a hard worker. No one is going to surpass it. He learned to play with the ball, outside the ball, which is even better. He continues to be very explosive. It has improved regardless of what the statistics show. He improved in decision-making, moving the ball to his teammates. Unfortunately, his teams have not been very good and this is reflected in their record. Often times when a team is in trouble, he can’t maximize his talents, especially in the playoffs. There are areas he needs to improve and he is constantly tackling those areas at both ends of the pitch. “
Defense, which is Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau’s obsession, is an area.
“He was really good with the ball. He needs to improve the ball when he’s in an assist position, Johnson said. “This is an area we wanted him to stay locked in as an auxiliary defenseman and long rebounder.
“This is all speculative, but if it were to happen, Tom Thibodeau would love to coach him. I saw him guard the best guards in the country. He’s never backed down from a challenge and he’s going to adopt Thibs’ style. We trained him really hard and he responded. This type of coaching and responsibility, he will adopt it. ”