INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Alabama guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 pick in the NBA draft on Thursday, and just minutes after hearing his name announced, Sexton addressed LeBron James' uncertain future.
"Man, LeBron, let's do it!" Sexton said when asked by ESPN's Maria Taylor during the draft broadcast to share his recruiting pitch to bring the three-time champion back to Cleveland for next season and beyond. "Let's do it. I see you needed a few pieces -- one or two pieces last season -- and let's do it. Let's go back to the Finals. Let's do it!"
Sexton, 19, averaged 19.2 points and 3.6 assists as a freshman for the Crimson Tide. He set the Alabama single-season scoring record for a freshman and was named the SEC Newcomer of the Year and the Co-Freshman of the Year with Kentucky's Kevin Knox.
Sexton worked out for the Cavs in Cleveland the day after the NBA Finals ended and made such an impression that Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert went to Twitter to tout him as a prospect:
Multiple team sources praised Sexton's character and competitive nature to ESPN.
Gilbert followed up with another tweet after Sexton was drafted.
Welcome to CLE and the @Cavs franchise, @CollinYoungBull. Everybody here in the draft room is more than excited you will be bringing your talents, skills, and most importantly your passion & work ethic to The Land. Let's go #youngbull.— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) June 22, 2018
PS...Your sport coat is fire.
Sexton wore a crimson-colored tuxedo-style jacket that perfectly matched the Cavs cap that he was handed before going up on stage to shake hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver at Barclays Center.
"It just shows all my hard work paid off," Sexton said when asked about his rise from being an unranked high school player to a lottery pick. "I just grinded. I started at the bottom and came back up to the top. That's the biggest thing, just to show people what I can do."
Cavs general manager Koby Altman said the Cavs expected to keep Sexton, rather than include him in a trade this summer, and believed he would be a starting-caliber player from day one.
"I do [think he is a starter]," Altman said. "I don't ever want to grant somebody that. What I do know is he's going to fight for that every day. He has not been given anything in his career. He has that chip on his shoulder. He knows he has to fight for it, he knows he has to work for it."
James was on family vacation during the draft, multiple league sources told ESPN, and the Cavs entered Thursday without being informed of James' intentions for next season. However, a source close to James believed Sexton was as good as any other point guard in the draft.
"I think the pick along with our youth and our momentum as a franchise, for LeBron and for everybody, I think there's a real energy here," Altman said. "And I think the talent level of Collin, I'm almost sure LeBron recognizes."
Cleveland's starting point guards ranked 28th in points per game in 2017-18 (9.5) and last in assists per game (3.2), according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information.
Altman envisions Sexton taking some of the load off James' shoulders next season.
"I think he has a very good basketball IQ, but I also think, what with LeBron, [what] could have helped him as well was just another playmaker, another guy to put pressure on the defense," Atlman said. "And Collin is explosive. He can get into the paint. He can make stuff happen. He's fast in transition. And I think ballhandling-wise he can take the load off LeBron a little bit, and again, aside from the basketball IQ, which I think he's very good in pick-and-roll, but I think that just having another play creator is a big deal for our team."
Sexton turned heads in the basketball world in November when he scored 40 points in an 89-84 loss to No. 14-ranked Minnesota in a game in which Alabama played 3-on-5 for the final 10 minutes of regulation after the Crimson Tide dealt with several player ejections, a player fouling out and another player injuring his ankle. The Cavs had a scout at the game, who called Altman that night and said, "You are not going to believe what happened tonight."
Said Altman: "That was incredible. Go watch the game."
The Cavs tried to trade up to acquire the Memphis Grizzlies' No. 4 pick on Thursday, a team source told ESPN, to no avail.
The pick comes two years and two days after Irving hit the biggest shot in franchise history with a go-ahead 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, assuring the Cavs their first championship.
It was the highest selection by a team coming off an NBA Finals appearance since the Celtics selected Len Bias second overall in 1986, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
"We're incredibly excited about Collin Sexton and the attitude, work ethic, his competitive fire, he's a scorer, but I just love his competitiveness that he's going to bring to this franchise and the energy that he's going to bring to this building," Altman said.