Today in Fear the Sword’s season hiatus player review series: Darius Garland. Follow the whole series here.
When the Cavs drafted point guard Darius Garland fifth-overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, it was a bit of a head scratcher. The pick itself made sense, the Cavs went with the best player available at the selection. But, in terms of fit, it seemed counterproductive with the team selected Collin Sexton, a point guard, only a year before.
A popular notion to squash these concerns was that Cleveland were emulating teams like Portland with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum or Toronto with Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Granted, these were lofty aspirations and the best-possible outcome for the Garland-Sexton tandem at the time but it did make sense.
With a season for the tandem now completed for the time being, how did it go for each player individually? Sexton had a stellar sophomore campaign with averages of 20.8 points on 47.2% shooting to go with 3.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Garland, meanwhile, was fairly lackluster averaging 12.3 points on 40.1% shooting along with 1.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
For the duo combined, it was also fairly underwhelming. It became clear that there is serious positional overlap between Garland and Sexton on offense and things were in a better rhythm when they were separated. Defensively, meanwhile, it was a disaster due to both players being undersized. With this experiment being a failure at launch, it just leaves more questions than answers.
The biggest one being who exactly should be Cleveland’s lead guard of the future? Sure, Sexton was strong statistically but his playstyle still caters more towards being a sixth-man long term. That then leaves Garland, who had a fairly mediocre campaign. If you were to base it upon this season, Garland doesn’t inspire much confidence as the Cavs’ primary facilitator going forward. But, you shouldn’t sell the ship on Garland based on his production. There’s some context that needs to be shared to show why he was so underwhelming this season.
The biggest being that he’s essentially a high schooler learning to play with grown men. Garland only appeared in five contests at Vanderbilt, with the only major opponent being Kevin Porter Jr and his USC squad. When Garland came to Cleveland, he was starting at a point further behind his teammates and was largely playing catch-up. There were times he showed potential that made the Cavs fall in love with him but injuries played a part in preventing Garland from building upon that momentum.
So, for now, the future is uncertain on how Garland will end up as a player. First, the Cavs need to break up the Garland-Sexton tandem to allow both to properly develop and flourish as well. But, that’s a story for another day. Garland has all the talent and potential to become the Cavs point guard of the future, he just needs to build upon it by getting healthy and staying in NBA-quality shape.