Garland is no Longer the Sneaky Good Point Guard
Once upon a time, Darius Garland was viewed as a promising young player with great shooting potential. A disappointing rookie year coming off of a season-long injury during his time at Vanderbilt dampened hasty expectations. But as is the case with most players in the NBA, it is common for players to take 2-3 years to find their footing.
This became more apparent in the second half of Garland’s second season as he was finding productivity and consistency on a nightly basis. Easily scoring 16-20 points with around 5-7 assists on a nightly basis in the second half of that season. The young guard quickly found admirers such as long-time Cavalier rival, Draymond Green. Green described Darius as one of his favorite and most difficult matchups in the league. Highlighting Garland’s ability to shoot and incredible shiftiness, Herky-Jerky movements with his great control of the ball.
Then year three happened. As you might be aware, with the arrival and guidance of Ricky Rubio ( who has a long track record of guards maturing quickly ) and the loss of Colin Sexton, Garland was thrust into a large role. And Darius responded glowingly. Posting an incredible 21.7 points per game and 8.6 assists per game and an All-Star selection. Darius began drawing rave reviews from many stars in the league including LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry.
A Special 4th Year
While it is no secret that expectations were raised with the acquisition of superstar Donovan Mitchell, Garland and company have not run from those expectations. Garland has longed for an ability to show his off-the-ball ability to move behind screens and shoot, much like Steph Curry.
Garland has stated a desire due to his elite ability to shoot the ball and it is easier to get those looks when being set up by another guard. And now with the addition of Donovan Mitchell, he has been able to do exactly that. Pair that with how lethal he is with the ball in his hands in isolation or as a distributor and you have one of the league’s best guards.
We saw exactly this with his long-awaited return against the Celtics. From the tip-off, Garland was locked in. While shots were slow to go in initially for the rest of the Cavaliers, Garland rose to the occasion. An incredible luxury that Cleveland has with two-star bucket getters and table setters with Garland and Mitchell.
Garland was able to get his own shot or move without the ball, being set up by his teammates for open looks. Darius started the game 4-4 from three-point land, providing go-to buckets whenever they were needed, while still facilitating the offense.
Speaking of facilitation, it’s time for the league to take notice that Garland is so much more than a scorer and often looks to set up teammates more than hunt for shots. Something that wasn’t expected to be a strength coming into the league was his passing and yet it has become elite. As mentioned before, Garland averaged a stellar 8.6 assists a year ago. In Garland’s return, he once again displayed his elite passing and vision with 12 huge assists to go with his 29 points.
The Road Trip
Cleveland now begins their five-game road trip, starting tonight with the Pistons, then to the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Warriors. Many of those teams will still be difficult, especially on the road, despite many of their disappointing starts. Garland will need to continue to be the straw that stirs this organization, as he has been. If Garland and company continue to play as they have in these first seven games, Cleveland may very well come back home on a 11-game win streak.