Eastern Conference coach explains how Isaac Okoro is similar to Jimmy Butler on defense

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Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers have high hopes for wing Isaac Okoro in his third season in the NBA, and one Eastern Conference coach believes that the Auburn University product is similar to Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler in a key way.

The coach told The Athletic that Okoro is similar to Butler as a defender. That’s great news for the Cavs, as they’ll need Okoro to step up on defense in the 2022-23 season now that Donovan Mitchell will be alongside Darius Garland in the backcourt.

“Like Jimmy Butler, he’s not going to give you anything easy, and not just because of the level of physicality,” the Eastern Conference coach said, according to Jon Krawczynski and Josh Robbins. “I think he embraces that role of being that guy. He takes that challenge, and it’s hard to do every night. It’s easy to get up for the marquee matchup, or it’s easy to maybe take possessions off here and there. But he doesn’t seem to do that. He just has that mindset and knows how impactful that is for a group. He’s a guy that buys in. He’s not necessarily worried about anything else. He’s comfortable knowing, ‘I can impact winning by doing just this.’”

Okoro, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, has started all but six games that he has appeared in during his career. The Cavs have a lot of offensive-minded guards and wings on the roster with Garland, Mitchell, Caris LeVert and others, so Okoro will likely be relied upon to guard opposing teams’ best players in the 2022-23 season.

The defensive-minded wing averaged 8.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game last season while shooting 48.0 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from beyond the arc.

Even though the Eastern Conference coach highlighted Okoro’s defense, it should be noted that the Cavs youngster improved a lot on offense last season after shooting just 29.0 percent from beyond the arc and 42.0 percent from the field as a rookie.

He continued that improvement in the preseason, knocking down 42.9 percent of his attempts from 3-point range. He showed off a nice shooting stroke against the Atlanta Hawks.

Butler, who is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, has led the Heat to the NBA Finals once and Eastern Conference Finals twice in his three seasons with the team.

Okoro may not be ready to carry a team offensively, but the fact that an NBA coach believes his desire to win is on the same level as that of Butler is a great sign for the Cavs moving forward.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.