While the Cleveland Cavaliers have been without Evan Mobley (knee) and Darius Garland (jaw) for quite a while, many players have stepped up to keep them afloat. Most nights, Donovan Mitchell and his red-hot offensive engine are giving Cleveland everything they have. Joining Mitchell more often than not is Jarrett Allen, cleaning up things on the defensive side of the ball and helping Mitchell shoulder the load on offense.

But because Mitchell and Allen are both All-Stars, it's not a complete surprise that either has carried the load up for the Cavs. Mind you, it's also not just Cleveland's star duo doing it all for the Cavs on the floor either. Again, it's been a total team effort for Cleveland. Regarding swingman Isaac Okoro, something interesting has emerged in life without Garland now that Mobley is back in action. Okoro has become the best perimeter defender and point-of-attack defender in the NBA.

Here's a rundown of how opponents have performed against Okoro's smothering defense lately: Cleveland's latest matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers included:

  • Damian Lillard, 26.5% shooting in four games played
  • Trae Young, 50.0% shooting in three games played
  • Paolo Banchero, 25.0% shooting in three games played
  • Jaylen Brown, 12.5% shooting in two games played
  • James Harden, 20.0% shooting in one game played
  • Paul George, 20.0% shooting in one game played
  • Devin Vassell, 37.5% shooting in one game played

The list goes for quite a while, but more often than not, Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has given Okoro the same assignment every night. Match up with the opposition's best perimeter threat and make their life a living hell every single time they have the basketball in their hands.

Okoro Onslaught

Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers

While it seems simple enough for Bickerstaff to have Okoro, Cleveland's best perimeter defender, lock in on typically an opponent's biggest offensive threat, it's so much more than that. It's the fact that Okoro has consistently done this to opponents all season long, endlessly frustrating the opposition and allowing everyone else to dominate on the Cavs.

That's not to say Okoro is a one-dimensional player, either. Instead of being just a defensive stopper, Okoro has been getting in on the fun offensively for Cleveland, finally living up to his mammoth two-way potential. In this stretch without Garland before Mobley's return to the floor against the Clippers, Okoro has averaged 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and hit on 36.5% of his three-point attempts in only 28.5 minutes per game.

But, in Cleveland's 112-106 victory over Los Angeles, where he had the double duty of handling James Harden and Paul George, Okoro saved his best for likely his last start before Garland's return to the floor. Okoro finished the night with 17 points, one rebound and three assists. More impressively, Okoro had one of the game's biggest shots, burning the Clippers for ignoring him on the perimeter and keeping momentum firmly in favor of the Cavs.

Now that Cleveland is finally approaching a clean bill of health again, it can be easy to forget what's kept them alive up to this point. It's the heroics of players like Okoro, who has showcased that he's more than comfortable shouldering the load and consistently ruining an opponent's perimeter attack.

Although he will be relegated back to the bench once Garland returns, Okoro has become a staple in closing lineups for the Cavs, especially when the game is on the line. That's what Cleveland has always needed out of him and, now, he's become the best perimeter defender in the NBA.