Making the case for Darius Garland as the Cavs’ best player

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland handles the ball. (Photo by Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland handles the ball. (Photo by Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland looks to pass. (Photo by Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) /

No matter the sport, rebuilds can be very taxing on franchises and fans alike. This is especially the case for a small market team such as the Cleveland Cavaliers. Generally not known as a top tier free agency destination, Cleveland must build through the draft in addition to pouncing when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a trade as was the case with the Jarrett Allen/Taurean Prince acquisitions.

Over the course of the past three NBA seasons, the Cavs have been somewhat of a “revolving door” in terms of their roster. Players and coaches have come and gone much the same in that span of time.

That said, it’s not as if the Cleveland-based franchise hasn’t managed to add a few keepers to the roster. First, Collin Sexton arrived via the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Next, Darius Garland (fifth) and Dylan Windler (26th) came courtesy of the 2019 Draft. Then yet again landing the fifth overall pick, Cleveland selected Isaac Okoro in the 2020 Draft.

Add in savvy pickups such as Dean Wade (originally via two-way), Lamar Stevens (current two-way), Allen, Prince, and Isaiah Hartenstein (via trade) combined with 2017-18 NBA Finals holdovers, Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr., and you have the beginnings of a truly exciting core moving forward.

So of these “core” players, or ones that could seemingly be in that realm to some degree, who has shown the most potential? Who has earned the label of “best player” on the current roster? Who has set themselves apart from the rest of the pack?

That, ladies and gentlemen may only be a matter of opinion. KJG’s John Carter stated that he believes Sexton carries that honor in his latest piece. There is definitely validity to that line of thought.

Truth be told, Sexton, Nance Jr., and Allen all make compelling arguments to be crowned “Best Player” among current Cavaliers. There is no denying that.

But the Cavs player that should carry this distinction should be none other than Garland.

No that isn’t a typo. There is an argument to be made that Garland is the team’s most impactful and most important player. Here, we’ll highlight why that’s the case, beginning with his court awareness and vision.

#1: Garland’s court awareness and vision are so vital for the Cavs

The game of basketball appears to be slowing down for Garland. Only in his second NBA season, he has already established himself as the team’s true leader on the floor. His impact on the court can most be felt in the ball movement and pacing of the offense.

Carrying season averages of 16.7 points, 5.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds, Garland is starting to resemble the floor general the Cavs first envisioned when drafting him fifth overall despite only appearing in five games in college at Vanderbilt due to a meniscus injury.

The most important part of Garland’s game is his ability to facilitate. Sure his 5.9 per game average doesn’t scream elite floor general just yet but it does speak volumes about his willingness to get his teammates involved. Add in the fact that he shares the court with a score-first guard in Sexton (3.2 assists per game for his career) and you may be inclined to believe that the two fit like a glove.

The offense can look discombobulated at times with Garland on the pine and ball movement can stagnate to the point of predictability when he isn’t conducting the show. In fact to take it a step further, the Cavs offensive rating is 106.2 with him in the court as opposed to 104.3 when he’s off it, per Basketball Reference.

Cleveland is 12-9 when Garland dishes out six or more assists and while that may not sound like it should carry significance, it becomes clear just what a statline that means when you consider the fact that the Cavaliers have only won 18 games thus far. It’s dishes like the number 5 entry in this countdown that showcase his vision.

Secondly, Garland’s scoring development has popped in Year 2, and it’s clear that he’ll only getting better in that area as he gains more experience.