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2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers season preview: Darius Garland

Garland took a giant leap last season. Can he take another this season?

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Darius Garland took the leap from being a respectable point guard in 2021 into being an All-Star last season. He single handedly kept the Cavs lifeless offense afloat by being the dynamic on-ball scorer and facilitator he showed flashes of his first couple seasons in the league.

Position: PG

Age: 22

Height: 6’ 1”

Weight: 192 lbs.

2021-22 stats: 68 games played, 35.7 minutes, 21.7 points , 3.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists with .462/.383/.892 shooting splits

Garland’s fit alongside Donovan Mitchell will define his season and, ultimately, this team’s ceiling. He has shown that he can fit with other high usage guards throughout his young career as him and Ricky Rubio led one of the most successful two man pairings in the league last season.

By the same token, the fit alongside Collin Sexton and Caris LeVert has been somewhat clunky at times as both pairings played more of a “your turn, my turn” style. We’ll see which grouping the Garland and Mitchell pairing falls into.

Adding Mitchell should open up more space for Garland to operate as both an on-ball and off-ball scorer. Garland had an incredibly efficient scoring season as he finished with a 53.6 effective field goal percentage, however, he only finished 57.4% of his shots at the rim last season — nearly identical to his previous season. Garland has added a nice in-between game with his floater, but that hasn’t opened up scoring at the rim. Finishing in the restricted area and getting to the line more often are two simple ways he can open up his on ball scoring.

Garland’s shot profile has steadily improved since coming into the league, but he still needs to take more threes. Especially off the dribble. Garland shot 40.5% on pull up threes last season. That was good for the fifth-best percentage in the league among players who took three or more pull up threes per game.

The problem is Garland took only 3.8 pull up threes per game. Being more comfortable taking that shot will really open up the offense for himself and his teammates.

Becoming a reliable off-ball threat is something that Garland will need to develop while playing alongside Mitchell. Garland showed during the 2020-21 season that he could be a solid spot up three point shooter as he knocked down 43.2% of his spot up threes. He regressed in this area last season as he shot just 35.4% on 2.8 spot up three point attempts per game. Playing with Mitchell should open up the opportunity for Garland to refine this skill.

Garland was forced to take a step forward as a playmaker last season as he went from 6.1 assists per game in 2020-21 to 8.6 assists last season. The increased usage also led to an increase in turnovers as he finished the year with 3.6 turnovers per game and turned the ball over on 14.5% on the possessions he used which puts him in the 28th percentile for guards. This led to the Cavs as a team having the fourth worst turnover percentage in the league. I wouldn’t expect another leap for Garland in terms of assists per game, but finding a way to take care of the ball more would go a long way.

Garland has the shooting ability to be a 50/40/90 guy. Not having to carry the offense with another all-star perimeter scorer on the roster should give Garland the space needed to improve his efficiency at the rim while providing more opportunities for clean looks from three. An additional ball handler should also allow Garland to clean up some of the turnover issues that have plagued him throughout his career, as he shouldn’t feel the need to force the issue as much as he has. Becoming more efficient at what he already does well is the simplest way for Garland to take another leap forward this season.

Final Score: Cleveland Cavaliers lose to Portland Trail Blazers 103-95

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Portland Trail Blazers gamethread

Final Score: Cleveland Cavaliers beat Atlanta Hawks 128-105