The 2018-19 season hasn't exactly been kind to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team is currently 1-11, and its rookie, Collin Sexton, has struggled to find his way.
Through the Cavs' first 12 games, Sexton is averaging 11.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 43.1 percent from the field. The rookie has dealt with a coaching change and a locker room environment that has been tense, to put things lightly.
Still, despite the negatives, it's far too early to give up on Sexton, who doesn't even turn 20 until January. The parallels between Sexton's play through 12 games and that of Hornets All-Star guard Kemba Walker should be plenty of reason to remain optimistic.
Walker entered the league after taking the NCAA by storm, fresh off the momentum of leading Connecticut to a national title in his junior year. He earned a reputation from his fiery competitive nature and was selected ninth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the then-Charlotte Bobcats.
Sexton didn't win a national title in his lone season at Alabama, but he did earn the reputation of being a fiery competitor that never backed down. His competitiveness was on full display when he and two other teammates were forced to play three-on-five for over 10 minutes of a game against Minnesota .
Sexton finished the game with 40 points, and he nearly willed his team to victory.
The adjustment to the NBA proved to be as tough for Walker just as it has been for Sexton - through 12 games, Walker was averaging 10.1 points, 2.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds in a reserve role while shooting 37.7 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from deep and the Bobcats held a record of 2-10.
While Walker has the slight edge in rebounding and assists averages, Sexton is averaging more points on much more efficient shooting splits, is ahead of the curve in making his first career start and is nearly two full years younger than Walker was during his rookie season.
Walker finished his rookie campaign averaging 12.1 points, 4.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds on 36.6 percent shooting from the field and 30.5 percent shooting from 3-point range. He started in 25 of 66 games in a lockout-shortened season where the Bobcats finished with a 7-59 record - the worst in NBA history.
Sexton is in a good position to outperform those numbers and while things have been rough for Cleveland, it's unlikely that it finishes the season with a historically bad record.
Just two seasons after the team's poor finish, Walker was averaging 17.7 points per game to help lead the team to the first of two postseason appearances in his career (2014, 2016). Walker has consistently improved his game on a yearly basis, making two consecutive All-Star appearances in 2017 and 2018. He has begun the 2018-19 season on a tear, establishing himself as one of the league's premier point guards.
At 19, Collin Sexton's best basketball is definitely ahead of him, and the fact that his drive is reminiscent of a young Kemba Walker bodes well for his chances to improve on a year-to-year basis.
So don't panic just yet. It might not happen right away, but with patience and persistence, Sexton will be fighting to lead Cleveland back to the postseason while establishing himself as a premier guard in the league in due time.