Cleveland Cavaliers: Grading Darius Garland’s 2019-20 season thus far

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland handles the ball. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland handles the ball. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff talks with Cleveland guard Darius Garland. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Cavaliers rookie guard Darius Garland has had his struggles, but he has shown promise. Here, we’ll grade his overall play thus far in the 2019-20 season.

After the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Collin Sexton in the 2018 NBA Draft, the selection of Darius Garland with the fifth overall pick last year was seen as a head-scratcher by some.

But the Cavaliers front office had faith in the pair’s ability to play well with one another in the near future, with the obvious comparison being Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers. Sexton even brought up that comparison in the offseason in an interview with ESPN, along with Toronto Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.

Through 65 games, the results have been mixed at this juncture, with the NBA’s season suspended due to concerns regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic. The duo has shared the court in 59 games, but of the two-man lineups for Cleveland that have played 40-plus games, the Garland/Sexton duo is tied for the fourth-lowest plus-minus at -4.4, according to

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Those are not ideal numbers, but the sample size is less than one full season, and it would be beneficial for the Cavaliers to give this a more extended look before pulling the trigger on any drastic moves or changes.

But back to grading Garland’s season to this point, beginning with the offensive end.

Looking at Garland’s offensive play thus far

After a meniscus tear limited Garland to just five games as a freshman and ultimately a collegiate player at Vanderbilt, he has been able to stay relatively healthy, missing only six games (of which one was due to rest). Early on, Garland had a tough time getting his shot to fall, hitting just 38.3 percent of his shots in December.

However, Garland did have an impressive 21 points (including shooting five-of-seven from three-point range), and six assists in a 119-110 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, who have the league’s best record, to close out November.

When the calendar turned to 2020, Garland upped his points per game total to 14.4 for the month. On the negative side, though, he was again connecting on just 38.3 percent of his shots and was turning the ball over nearly three times per game, as noted by While the turnovers were concerning, Garland was improving on his assist numbers, and I’ll cut him some slack as he was dealing with a really tough bout with the flu.

During January, he topped seven assists in six games and overall averaged 5.3 assists for the month. He closed out the month by scoring 16 points, dishing out eight assists, and grabbing five rebounds while turning the ball over just two times in a 115-109 loss at home to the defending champion Toronto Raptors.

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Garland’s so-so shooting percentage could be a bit misleading, though, as he is often able to get in the lane and put up a floater, which was one of his strengths coming out of college. But that mid-range shot along with the floater is sometimes hot and cold for Darius.

This season Garland hit just 34.9 percent of his looks from 15-19 feet but did hit a better percentage (43.8) from 10-14 feet.

As he is able to see more in-game action and work on these attempts, Garland will likely be able to connect with those mid-range shots more consistently. Garland does connect on 87.5 percent of his foul shots, but unfortunately, he is only getting to the line 1.2 times per game, per Basketball Reference.

As a guard, it would be nice to see him build more functional upper body strength so he can absorb contact and get to the line more often, like his teammate Sexton, who is getting to the line 4.1 times per game.

But his higher assist totals over the past two months were encouraging that he saw the floor better, and Garland was also trimming his turnover numbers down, recording over two turnovers just twice in his past 16 games.

Now, the defensive side of the ball is where Garland needs to work on and improve the most.