One is 27 years old, the other 20.
Both were the eighth overall picks in their respective drafts.
Both are shoot-first point guards who, despite their difference in experience, still have to be reminded about open teammates they fail to spot for an assist.
Brandon Knight and rookie Collin Sexton have spent just over six weeks together as members of the Cavaliers. But the Feb. 7 three-team trade that netted the Cavs the Houston Rockets’ 2019 first-round selection and brought Knight to Cleveland carried an important consequence that may have seemed like a sidelight at the time.
Knight sees some of himself in Sexton. Starting alongside each other for the last 18 games, Knight has become one of Sexton’s mentors.
Their on-court relationship can only help Sexton, one of the cornerstones of the Cavs’ rebuild, even if the front office decides Knight is not a part of the franchise’s long-term future.
“Since I’ve gotten here, I try to talk to him as much as I can,” Knight said Friday. “I see myself a lot in him as a young guard having vets around me, having to learn when to score and when not to score, trying to use my speed but also trying to slow down.
“When I see him do certain things I’m like, ’Man, I used to do that.’ I try to tell him what I went through and try to speed up his learning curve. I just try to tell him those little things.”
But Knight said he’s not talking to Sexton like that every night.
“You have to pick and choose with young guys. Can’t stay in their ear or they will start to tune you out,” he said.
Sexton has mentioned more than once how his veteran teammates have “coached him up.” He has watched film with Matthew Dellavedova, 28, acquired in the Dec. 7 trade that sent George Hill to the Milwaukee Bucks. But Sexton said he clicked right away with Knight because of their similar styles.
“He’s very valuable just because seven seasons in the NBA, he has a lot of experience. One year he was almost an All-Star,” Sexton said. “To learn from him is big ... I try to listen to him very often just because I know that it’s coming from a good place.
“He’s a very good guy and he’ll help me out no matter what.”
Knight said Sexton’s opportunity during his first season in the NBA is rare. Sexton has started 65 of his 75 games played. It was a similar situation for Knight in 2014-15 with the Detroit Pistons, where he played in 66 games and started 60.
“I know there’s not many players to do that. And usually there’s not a lot of situations where you can do that,” Knight said. “A lot of times rookies are brought along slowly. I know our league is getting younger, so the opportunity is a lot more available now than it was in the past.”
Sexton is a candidate for the NBA’s Eastern Conference rookie of the month award. Going into Thursday’s game at San Antonio, he was averaging 22.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in March, shooting .512 from the field, .466 from long range and .833 from the free-throw line. It may not be a coincidence that Sexton and Knight had played all 13 games together, which gives Sexton more off-ball action.
“What he’s doing is incredible. He reminds me a lot of myself, how athletic he is and how fast he is. He can get in the paint at will. When you have that type of athleticism and you can run by guys whenever you want, it makes the game easy,” Knight said of Sexton.
“It’s just about trying to decipher when to use it and when not to use it. He’s been getting better and better with that. He’s made some great plays down the stretch to show his maturation. That’s what we’re going to need for us to be competitive. He’s going to be controlling the games and making those plays. Since I’ve gotten here, he’s been incredible, especially with making his decisions and shooting the ball and just his overall game, speaking to guys. It’s impressive to see a rookie do that.”
Cavs coach Larry Drew was the Bucks coach in 2013-14 when Knight played in Milwaukee and said he sees the similarities with Sexton. That was before Knight suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that forced him to miss all of last season.
“They’re both scoring point guards,” Drew said Friday. “Both guys from time to time I have to pull them over to the sideline and say, ’You’ve got to make that pass. That guy was open.’ But that’s just who they are and I recognize that.
“The thing that I’m really happy about both guys is that they’re very receptive — whether they miss a teammate on a pass or they should have made a different play — when I correct them and when their teammates correct them. But I can see the way they interact that they really enjoy playing together.”
Knight hopes the fine points he’s mentioning to Sexton can speed up the development of the “Young Bull.”
“It took me a couple years,” Knight said. “If we can get him to do that what I learned year four by year two, how much better will our team be?”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.