Kai Sotto as a Cavalier? NBA aspirant works out with Cleveland

Alder Almo - Philstar.com
Kai Sotto as a Cavalier? NBA aspirant works out with Cleveland
Kai Sotto

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey – In 2019, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Collin Sexton raved about a 17-year-old Kai Sotto after working out with him in Atlanta. 

“"That's my guy... he's a great player. I feel like he can make it [to the NBA],” Sexton told Filipino reporters when he graced the annual Jr. NBA program in Manila. 

Sotto worked out with Sexton when he first arrived here in the US under the NBA guard’s personal trainer Nick Stapleton. 

Three years later, Sexton’s current team had a glimpse of what he was talking about when Sotto worked out with the Cavaliers Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time), per league sources. 

It was Sotto’s third private workout after the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic last week. The Filipino prospect is also scheduled to work out with the Atlanta Hawks later this week, per league sources.

According to Chicago-based writer Daniel Greenberg, the Bulls have also shown interest in bringing in Sotto for a workout. 

It is unclear if the Bulls are part of the dozen workouts lined up for Sotto ahead of the NBA Draft, as his camp kept his schedule under wraps. 

Barring any trade, the Cavaliers have three picks on June 23 — Nos. 14, 39 and 56. 

Sotto, whose size and shooting intrigued the Cavaliers, could be a part of the wave of big men they have been using to counter the trend of small ball in the NBA. 

The Cavaliers made a surprise run to the playoffs by going against the current trend. 

Their towering frontline of first-time NBA All-Star Jarrett Allen, last year’s third overall pick Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen posed mismatch problems to opposing teams. Allen is a walking double-double machine, while Mobley and Markannen are stretch big men who can shoot from the outside. 

Sotto has a soft touch from the perimeter and has mastered his 3-point shot under NBA skills trainer and former Columbia University gunner Jeremiah Boswell.

Sexton once compared Sotto to an NBA legend who revolutionized how big men play in the NBA. 

“Probably like a Dirk [Nowitzki], who can shoot it and space the floor,” Sexton said in 2019 in this article by Rappler.com when asked who reminds him of Sotto’s style of play. “He can shoot the three-ball, so he’s really cool and different just because he’s 7 feet.”

“He’s able to run the floor and shoot it, put it on the floor, he can do a lot, so he’s just got to continue to work and he’s gonna get better,” Sexton added. “The sky is the limit for him.”

This offseason, the Cavaliers will reportedly shop for a backup point guard and a backup center. 

Ricky Rubio, whose Cleveland stint last season was cut short by a brutal ACL injury, is rumored to return to back up All-Star point guard Darius Garland. Sexton, a restricted free agent, may bolt out if they don’t agree to a rookie contract extension. 

As currently constructed, Cleveland has nine players — four of them standing above 6-8, including veteran Kevin Love — on its books with guaranteed contracts. Sexton and Rubio could make it 11 in July. Then they have Dean Wade and Lamar Stevens on non-guaranteed deals. If they don’t make a consolidation trade of their second-round picks, their roster could quickly grow into 15. 

The Cavaliers will have an extra pick to spare on June 23. If they use that on the top Filipino prospect, the sky is the limit for Sotto, as he fits the Cavaliers’ style of play and will learn immensely from their quartet of skilled big men. 

If they view him as a project, they could stash him in the NBL for one more season and revisit him once Love’s contract expires in 2023. 



Alder Almo is a former senior sportswriter for Philstar.com and NBA.com Philippines. He is now based in Jersey City, New Jersey, and writes for the New York-based sports website empiresportsmedia.com. 





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