Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland will start off well next season

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland shoots the ball. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland shoots the ball. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Darius Garland was hitting his stride before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ past season ultimately ended.

Since Darius Garland last stepped on the court for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a lot has happened in the world.

While not taking part in an NBA game in just about nine months, Garland has done quite a bit of work off the floor to ensure his sophomore season starts similarly to how his rookie campaign ended.

Garland’s rookie campaign was far from perfect, but before the 2019-20 NBA season was put on hold due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Garland seemed to be turning a corner.

In his final 12 games as a rookie, Garland averaged 12.9 points and 5.1 assists per game, and he connected on 36.5 percent of his attempts from three-point range. However, his season was cut short as a groin injury held him out of the final five games before the season went into the prior COVID-19-induced hiatus, and Cleveland was not an Orlando-area bubble restart team.

The initial hope with drafting Garland was getting to pair him alongside Collin Sexton, and the backcourt could eventually turn into something similar to what the Portland Trail Blazers have with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

While that comparison seems a bit far-fetched, the point was pairing those two young guards would hopefully give the Cavaliers their future backcourt for the next decade-plus.

With not even a full 82-game season to evaluate the duo, it seems as if many within the Cavaliers fan base has given up on Garland.

Cavs fans shouldn’t do so, though, and Garland seems poised to start off next season well.

While it definitely seems too early to give up on Garland, time does seem to be running out, especially considering Cleveland has a promising young guard in Kevin Porter Jr. that could take over the two-guard position alongside Sexton at some point.

That said, it is fair to point out that Garland is just 20 years old and did miss the majority of his lone season at Vanderbilt after suffering a meniscus tear after just five games.

That injury seemed to linger in the back of Garland’s mind last year. Even after he was cleared to return to the court, he even admitted that was the case. Back in June, Garland talked with reporter Chris Fedor of and stated that the knee injury was in the back of his mind during the season, and he did not feel like himself (subscription required).

What is encouraging is how Garland performed this offseason, as he seems determined to put his rocky rookie season behind him. Garland reportedly spent the offseason working on getting stronger and improving his body, per Fedor (subscription required) and that should pay off in enabling him to start off well in 2020-21.

Garland, per Fedor, hired a chef and went with a protein, and vegetables/greens-heavy diet. Garland also said he gave up fast food and sugar, including candy, and worked out with his brother as they lifted weights daily initially, and Garland worked out a ton with Cavs strength and conditioning coach Derek Millender.

That commitment shows Garland is fully dedicated to becoming a better player, and I believe that will carry over into the start of and hopefully throughout next season.

Another encouraging sign was Larry Nance Jr. highlighting that during the Cleveland Cavaliers mini-bubble back in late September, that Garland was “far and away,” the Wine and Gold’s best player. That was via Tom Withers of the Associated Press, recently, and KJG’s Grant Puskar hit on that showing in those Cavs voluntary team workouts from Garland, too.

Overall, Garland being another year removed from his injury will surely help him clear the mental hurdle and help him progress toward becoming the guard Cleveland envisioned when they drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

And I firmly believe with him having been able to work on his game and on his body extensively, Garland should pick up where he left off last season on the floor and start 2020-21 off well.

2 things J.B. Bickerstaff should look to improve for the Cavs in 2020-21. dark. Next

Moreover, he could seemingly break out next season.