It was hardly a banner year for Dylan Windler as a rookie. In fact, it wasn't a rookie year at all.
Windler became the Cleveland Cavaliers' forgotten man, despite being selected with the No. 26 overall draft pick in 2019 and arriving with lots of hope.
Then came a lower leg injury, that seemed to drag on ... and on ... and on. Just when things seemed to get moving in the right direction, and Windler started to rehab with the G League's Canton Charge in early December, down he went again.
The rookie season wouldn't actually be a rookie season at all. Instead, that will take place in the 2020-21 season.
And Windler is already ready for it. He's been taking part in the Cavs' minicamp at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and opening some eyeballs.
Windler, 24, is 6-foot-6 and renowned for his outside shooting, athleticism and (drumroll, please) durability. It's true, as prior to last season, Windler hadn't missed a game because of injury since his junior year of high school. That was a sprained ankle and that only cost him two games.
But all of it is ancient history now, as Windler is back and getting some run with his teammates, and for now, that's plenty good enough.
“It’s just been a while since I’ve been able to get live reps in a real team setting running sets,” Windler told reporters on Saturday. “It felt really good. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life and for that to be taken away for like a whole year, it’s hard. I feel pretty good about what I’ve been doing so far and the way my body’s feeling, just the way I’m able to still move. "
Windler can play some small forward, which is good, since Cedi Osman is still in his native Turkey and not in camp. Mostly, Windler is expected to fit well in today's generally position-less NBA, an athlete and shooter on the perimeter whose best days may be yet to come.
"He knows how to play, is super efficient," said Cavs GM Koby Altman. "He can really shoot. He’s always around the ball. He’s excited to be back, doing his thing and when that silky smooth 3-ball goes in we are doing little fist-bumps too. .,, We’re excited about him.”
Windler was one of the Cavs' three first-round picks last summer, joining Darius Garland (No. 5 overall) and Kevin Porter Jr. (No. 30). But while Garland and Porter were getting valuable in-game experience, Windler was stuck on the sideline wearing a suit.
The hope now is those days are over for good. We don't know yet when next season will begin, but for Windler, it's already begun,
"It’s refreshing as an athlete who’s gone through an injury, just being able to play basketball again,"" he said. "Every little thing, making shots, giving your teammates assists, being able to play out there is something you don’t really realize you miss until you get back out there.”