Cavs: Darius Garland’s approach in preseason will be a key to watch

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) /

Darius Garland should be more assertive for the Cleveland Cavaliers in Year 2.

Darius Garland did not have a banner rookie season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and him having 12.3 points per outing on 40.1 percent shooting was fairly underwhelming in the scoring sense. Garland is a highly capable shooter, but that didn’t play out nearly as much as Cavs fans would’ve liked to have seen.

I’m going to give Garland somewhat of a pass, though. Garland only appeared in five games in his lone collegiate season at Vanderbilt due to a meniscus tear, and coming into Year 1, he wasn’t seemingly able to work on his game much because of rehabbing. He also had a minor foot issue that didn’t aid his cause early in the season.

His prior knee injury, though, was reportedly in the back of his mind throughout his rookie season, and Garland did not feel like himself.

Albeit on the plus side, Garland still did demonstrate plenty of flashes as a shooter/scorer, and his passing feel turned a corner as his rookie year wore on. Garland had a better 5.1 assists per outing, as compared to his year average of 3.9, in his last 26 games active.

Anyway, while it was a tough break that Garland and the Cavs’ past season would then ultimately end due to novel coronavirus concerns/Cleveland not having been an Orlando-area bubble team, the extended offseason likely will Garland in the long run. Yes, some rust will be there, we know that, and for the club in a general sense.

But Garland reportedly had a really productive offseason (subscription required), in which he was able to work extensively on his body, and seemingly on his game, per’s Chris Fedor. That didn’t appear to have been the case coming into last season, but for next season and looking onward, it could pay considerable dividends.

For what it’s worth, Garland reportedly was a standout in the Cavaliers voluntary in-market bubble team workouts in late September, as Fedor alluded to, and Garland looked sharp and his shiftiness stood out.

So factoring in that sort of thing, I would think that in Cleveland’s upcoming preseason action, that Garland could look to have a better outlook on-ball, and just look more comfortable for the Cavs. That’s something I’ll be paying close attention to.

Garland’s approach for the Cavs will be a key to watch in preseason.

Cleveland’s first two preseason outings are against the Indiana Pacers, and the likes of Malcolm Brogdon, a pretty solid defensive combo guard. Albeit in a general sense, while I obviously don’t want Garland to force things, I’ll be interested to see how he looks on-ball.

Does that shiftiness show at times in settled offense and/or in secondary transition for him with him 100 percent healthy/trusting his knee? Does Garland create some more separation than he did a good amount of the time last season, where he didn’t do so as consistently as one would’ve liked?

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While Brogdon is a solid defender, and I’d like to see Garland get other guys, such as Collin Sexton, Kevin Love, Isaac Okoro and/or Dylan Windler involved, I don’t want Garland to be passing up shots.

As a brief side note, per a report from Fedor, Sexton won’t be in action on Saturday versus Indy due to a minor ankle injury, for precaution. Albeit it’d seem he very well could be in action, to some capacity perhaps, in other preseason outings.

Albeit swinging back to Garland, he seemingly was hesitant to pull the trigger at times last season, but Garland did still show a nice handle in Year 1, and his floater game was a bright spot.

However, Garland, who only had 1.2 free throw attempts per outing in 2019-20, didn’t get to the foul line much.

In upcoming preseason against the Pacers, and then in Cleveland’s last two games at the New York Knicks, I’d like to see Garland show more assertiveness on-ball than he often did last season. That’s at least when that’s sensible and he’s not forcing things.

An example would be in pick-and-roll situations if bigs are switched out on to him, where hopefully that better shiftiness will be on display.

But it’s evident that this next season, Garland needs to be comfortable and/or even initiate contact more, because if he’s willing in that way, it will only aid him in getting more free throw trips. And from there, that could help him as a playmaker for others, too.

Moreover, looking at upcoming preseason action, how Garland does throughout games with his approach on the ball, to go with if he can show some positive signs defensively, such as getting through off-ball screens better, will be a key to watch.

I’m honestly in agreeance with KJG’s Robbie DiPaola in that I believe Garland’s offseason work will pay off, and he’ll get off to a good start in 2020-21.

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I need to see a confident/assertive DG, though, and starting in preseason action, when he’s out there, for the Cleveland Cavaliers.