Cavs brass, veterans highly impressed with Isaac Okoro: ‘He’s the real deal’

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers rookie forward Isaac Okoro continues to make a deep impression with both the organization and the team’s players, with new teammate Larry Nance Jr. especially raving about him.

Okoro was the fifth overall pick in last month’s NBA draft by the Cavs, with earlier hints that the team was looking at some of the other top prospects.

The latest example of his ability to grab attention in training camp came during a scrimmage on Thursday, when Okoro drained a 3-pointer in the closing moments. That long-range shooting touch was reported to be one of Okoro’s flaws coming out of the University of Auburn, but Nance dismissed that perception.

“He’s the real deal,” Larry Nance Jr. told “His shot is not what it was made out to be. It is not broken. It is completely fine.”

The chief selling point that the 6-foot-6 forward had entering the draft was his ability to lock down opponents on defense.

That skill is something the Cavaliers have needed over the past two rebuilding campaigns that have both ended with 19-win seasons.

Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has urged Okoro to put the ball up from deep when left alone.

“When he shoots it the right way, it goes,” Bickerstaff said. “That’s what our conversations with him are — just shoot the right shot more often. If you’re open, you have to shoot it. You put in enough time, you shoot enough shots, if you’re open you have to take that shot. If not, you’re giving the defense an advantage if you don’t take open shots.”

The hope is that Okoro will take advantage of the chance to start at small forward. If the rookie’s work ethic has any effect on that decision, the chances of that happening appear to be high.

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.