Cavs: We’ll find out how Darius Garland responds to pressure in 2020-21

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland looks on. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland looks on. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Much of the 2019-20 season has been tough for Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Darius Garland, and we’ll find more about how he responds to pressure next season.

Overall, Darius Garland has been somewhat underwhelming for the Cleveland Cavaliers in his rookie campaign. I have to cut him some slack, though, considering he appeared in only five games at Vanderbilt in his one season in college due to a meniscus tear.

On the season, Garland hasn’t been nearly aggressive enough as a scorer, in my opinion, given his natural ability as a shooter. He’s had 12.3 points per game, which has been alright, but has really struggled inside the paint/near the rim as a finisher.

On the plus side, Garland’s hit a robust 39.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-point attempts, per’s shot tracking data, and his assist average of 3.9 per outing has been decent.

I was also encouraged by Garland having a 4.9-1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio in his last 10 games active before missing Cleveland’s last five games leading into the season’s novel coronavirus-induced hiatus with a left groin strain.

His decision-making as a passer/in the playmaking sense was trending in the right direction, and he was setting up pieces such as Kevin Love, Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman and Larry Nance Jr. in their preferred spots on the floor more consistently, and Garland was playing at a nice pace.

That being said, plenty of this 2019-20 season, which it seems could very well be over via owner’s vote next week for the 19-46 Cavs as a bottom-feeder team, according to recent reports on Friday, it’s been clear that Garland has had his growing pains.

In 2020-21, we’ll find more about how Garland responds to pressure, and hopefully, the young Cleveland Cavaliers guard steps up.

I’m willing to give him again, plenty of slack, though, as he seemed unsure of himself often, and much of that was because he played all of four-plus games in college. He also has played the position with the biggest NBA adjustment, in point guard, too.

Nonetheless, even with him only set to be in his second season in 2020-21, how Garland responds to pressure will be revealed more next year.

Garland is more than capable of having a bounce-back season, and personally, I believe he will and should still have a bunch of opportunities in the first month-and-a-half or so of next season to prove he could still be Cleveland’s primary playmaker of the future. He’ll definitely need to prove that more often and be more consistent game-to-game, though, in doing so.

What I especially want to see more from Garland is him being able to create more space off-the-bounce, which is the key burning question I have for him for next season.

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Much of last offseason it seemed that Garland was rehabbing, and hopefully, in the coming offseason, he can improve/get back more quickness, so he can fully take advantage of his tight handle and generate more room to get more open pull-up looks.

That’s at least when bigs are switched out on to him, I’d imagine, and even in those instances as a rookie, Garland didn’t capitalize nearly as much as one would’ve liked.

It’d be a big positive for Garland to improve his strength as well, so he could at least hold his own more against opposing guards to contain against penetration better. That’d pay off in getting through off-ball screens better to contest/stay attached, too.

Moreover, it’s clear that even with him just going into Year 2, with the Cavaliers having recently spent a top five draft selection on Garland, the pressure is going to be much more on him next season.

The Cavs seem to know exactly what they have in Sexton, and have a potential two-way star in Kevin Porter Jr., who Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley rightfully believes will be the Cavs’ best player in 2023, and who could feasibly play the 3 a bunch still with more experience there but also playmake a considerable amount. Garland, meanwhile, is a bit of an unknown with the Cavaliers at this point moving forward, though.

DG is more than capable of stepping up, however, and additionally, I believe he’ll establish himself as one of the Cavs’ best and even off-movement shooters with a quick release. He again needs to be more consistent next season in the general sense, and even more so on-ball, though.

If Garland is still seeming to be unsure of himself too frequently and reverting back to having too much indecision with the ball in his hands, the Cavs could play him much less, and/or perhaps after next season, look to feasibly trade him.

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I again think Garland can very well respond and have a really productive second year for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but rest assured, how he does with the pressure building on him will be revealed. Next year is a pivotal season for the young guard’s career outlook with the Cavs.