Collin Sexton says “I want to be here in Cleveland,” but will he be back?

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A few things became clear in Cleveland this season as the rebuilding process took a surprisingly large leap forward: Evan Mobley can be a franchise anchor on both ends in the paint, Mobley and Jarrett Allen form a young and formidable frontcourt duo, Kevin Love can be an important sixth man, and…

Darius Garland is the lead guard of the future.

Where does that leave Collin Sexton? The restricted free agent told Kelly Russo of The Athletic he wants to be back with the Cavaliers next season.

“I want to be here in Cleveland,” Sexton said. “I love the organization, love my teammates and whatever happens, I know that Cleveland was really good to me. I know this is the place that helped me get to where I am today, and I know I want to continue to be a part of this winning culture and be a part of this culture. I feel like me just being able to be at the start of it helped us get to where we are yesterday and where we are right now at the present. So, I love Cleveland. I want to be here.”

His wanting to return and whether he is a good fit with where the Cavaliers are headed are different things.

Sexton was “very available” in trade talks last offseason, then before this season the Cavaliers and Sexton could not agree to a contract extension. Sexton entered this season in the final year of his rookie deal, playing for that next contract, then tore his meniscus, requiring surgery that had him out for the year. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers grew and changed without him, including adding Caris LeVert to the mix (another offseason contract decision in Cleveland).

As with all free agent signings, it comes down to price — another team may value what Sexton brings higher than the Cavaliers do now.

Sexton averaged 24.3 points per game a season ago, but in a ball-dominant, shoot-first role that is not available in Cleveland anymore. Sexton frustrated teammates by pounding the ball and looking for his shot at the expense of getting others involved. Some scouts thought his ultimate role was as a gunner sixth man in the Jordan Clarkson/Lou Williams mold. Has Sexton grown beyond that during his time away from the game, when he said he studied the adjustments coaches made and other players? Where do teams see him, and where is his best fit?

Cleveland Gm Koby Altman praised Sexton and the culture he helped set with a rebuilding franchise. However, if he returns to Cleveland now, it will likely be for less money and a different role than what he had his last full, healthy season. What does Sexton want? A smaller role in Cleveland, the ball in his hands more somewhere else, or just a change of scenery? Some teams will reach out to Sexton and test the restricted free agent waters.

Sexton said all the right things about coming back to Cleveland, but whether he will or not is a different question.