J.B. Bickerstaff noted how Okoro has remained determined on the defensive side of the ball against many of the NBA’s top forwards and guards, a list that includes names like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard.
“I don’t know of any other rookie that accepted the challenges that he had to accept and came out on the other side unscathed,” Bickerstaff said. “Physically and emotionally, he had some daunting tasks and not one time did he balk at the opportunity. He kept going back, he kept showing up and look at the improvement he’s made. You think about the things that he’s added to his game on the offensive end while not slowing down on that (defensive) end of the floor. There’s no doubt in my mind that he should be on the All-Rookie Team. The challenges he’s taken and the improvements he’s made, I don’t know of any other rookies that have done that.”
Okoro has seen more time recently at guard due to Darius Garland’s ankle injury, though that’s helped broaden his game when it comes to playmaking.
On a roster that’s been plagued with injuries this season, the 20-year-old Okoro has also played more minutes than any of his Cavaliers teammates.
The Cavaliers had high hopes when they selected with the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft, and he’s shown that he’s ready to make the effort necessary to develop his talent.
Okoro may be hurt in any postseason balloting by the Cavaliers’ collapse over the past few months, but it’s clear that his head coach is well aware of the value he brings to the court.