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J.B. Bickerstaff explains why he’s still backing Isaac Okoro despite major early-season struggles

Isaac Okoro and J.B. Bickerstaff

While the Cleveland Cavaliers as a unit have gotten off to an impressive start in the 2022-23 campaign, young wing Isaac Okoro has struggled mightily. Despite that, Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff is sticking with him.

Bickerstaff recently explained why he’s going to keep backing Okoro despite the offensive struggles that he has been dealing with for the majority of the season.

“He deserves it,” Bickerstaff said when asked why keeps sticking with Okoro. “We have done things with him since his rookie year that would be unfair to veteran players in this league as far as guys we have asked him to guard and positions we have asked him to play. He never said a word about it. He never complained, never backed away from a challenge. He went out every single day and tried giving his best.”

So far this season, Okoro is averaging 19.3 minutes per game. In those minutes, he’s putting up just 4.0 points per game on abysmal shooting percentages of 37.5 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from deep.

Both numbers mark a major drop-off from those of his second campaign in the league last season, when he shot 48.0 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from deep.

If Okoro can get back to hitting shots at that clip, he’d be an incredible two-way asset for the Cavs. After all, he remains one of the better defenders on the team.

The interesting thing to note is that during the 2022 NBA offseason, Okoro was getting a lot of good press regarding how his offensive progression had been going.

He reportedly worked “tirelessly” on his offensive game during the summer. It’s been unfortunate to see all that hard work not show up on the court just yet.

With all that in mind, things have been slowly moving in the right direction for Okoro. Prior to Monday night’s clunker versus the Toronto Raptors, he had been solid in five straight games.

In those previous five games (four of which resulted in Cleveland wins), Okoro averaged 8.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. More importantly, he shot 55.0 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from deep in those games.

Unfortunately, that string of solid games ended during the loss to the Raptors when Okoro shot an abysmal 1-for-11 from the field and 0-for-5 from deep.

That kind of performance can definitely shake the confidence of a young player, so it’s great to know that Bickerstaff has Okoro’s back.

Hopefully, he’ll be able to rebound nicely in the Cavs’ upcoming slate of games.

They’ll host the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday and Orlando Magic on Friday before heading to the Big Apple on Sunday to face the New York Knicks.

Okoro’s playing time and production will be two things for Cavs fans to keep an eye on in those contests.

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