Cavs: Darius Garland has been showing great all-around passing

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland passes the ball. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland passes the ball. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Throughout his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, young lead guard Darius Garland has proven to have quite a bounce-back campaign.

In his rookie year, Garland didn’t look to be nearly his full self, and that was apparent. He reportedly had his prior meniscus injury that cut his lone collegiate season at Vanderbilt short in the back of his mind, and one could see that far too often.

He had a fairly underwhelming 12.3 points per contest on 49.8 percent true shooting, and while it was necessarily bad, him hitting 35.5 percent of his three-point attempts wasn’t nearly what he’s fully capable of.

In Year 2, though, it’s been a different story. On the year, Garland has had 17.7 points per outing on 54.7 percent true shooting, and has hit 39.4 percent of his 5.0 three-point attempts per contest, the same volume he had in his rookie year overall.

The shiftiness for Garland, which we didn’t see nearly as much last season, has often been on display. And that’s been the case seemingly even more so of late. Although a heavy workload did have some to do with it, in April, for instance, he had 20.5 points per contest and hit 38.5 percent of a healthy clip of 6.4 deep attempts per outing.

The confidence from him as a scorer, particularly from deep, and/or the mentality game-to-game has been a key positive in the scoring sense.

The playmaking has continually popped throughout the year, too, though, and even more so post-All-Star. This season, as compared to 2019-20, when he had 3.9 assists per outing, he’s had 6.2 assists per contest. And post-All-Star, he’s had 6.5 assists per contest.

He’s truly been showing the full repertoire as a passer/primary playmaker, too. As an aside, Garland did injure his ankle in Cleveland’s loss on Friday against the Washington Wizards which was unfortunate and we’ll have to see regarding other potential absences. But the passing feel he’s been demonstrating for a while now has been a key positive.

Garland has been showing great all-around passing abilities for the Cavs.

Garland has had an increased workload in the past handful of games leading into the time he injured the ankle, with the Cavaliers not having had Collin Sexton (concussion), to some degree, and Matthew Dellavedova (neck strain), from a playmaking standpoint. Sexton has been back in the past two, for reference, though.

Regardless, Garland’s been showcasing the whole array as a passer, both to interior threats/cutters and to perimeter shooters. Firstly, the two-man game between Garland and Jarrett Allen has shined for much of the time since Allen has been acquired via trade from the Brooklyn Nets, and again, as of late.

Credit Allen for his screening ability and timing in the pick-and-roll/via handoffs, for one, and the catch radius is enormous for him as a lob threat; I’m not glossing over that. Albeit the young guard’s timing for these passes repeatedly is something that’s jumped out, and it’s led to the two’s connection constantly being a threat to opposing defenses on the interior.

Garland has also hit bigs, such as Allen again here, along with Kevin Love and Isaiah Hartenstein, when he’s been in there, with precise dishes when they’ve had interior seals. That’s aided Cleveland by fully taking advantage of cross-matching off-ball, in particular, and we’ve regularly seen pinpoint accuracy from the youngster on these sort of feeds.

Garland’s feel for hitting cutters, such as Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade and at times Sexton has improved as the year has worn on as well, and one would assume Dellavedova’s presence has probably aided his timing on that.

Okoro initially was looking to receive a dish from cutting from the weak side corner here, and then after a swing to Garland when Osman didn’t want the look there, Garland rifled a pass to the rookie, leading to an easy reverse layup. These kind of precise passes, near the end of this clip, inside have rewarded cutters/interior threats consistently this season, which has been awesome to see.

This dish to a diving Mfiondu Kabengele was quite a find, too. And we’ve been seeing one to two of these sort of ones and/or to cutters more and more of late.

Plus, Garland’s feel/abilities to hit perimeter shooters, via manipulation of help defenders, skip feeds, kickouts and from him keeping his dribble alive after initially looking to penetrate and resetting has often led to quality looks. The first pass in the clip above from Garland was the kind of thing I’m referring to in those examples.

That didn’t necessarily illuminate it, per se, but Garland hitting the hockey assist there first to Love, who ultimately made the dish to Okoro, was started by the first Garland productive pass. This sort of thing has shown growth, too, with how he’s been able to utilize hesitations/change-of-pace to keep defenders off balance regarding when to commit to help or stick to shooters more.

The first sequence in this clip featured that from him, and Garland’s capabilities throwing crisp, on-time passes both on the interior and on the perimeter with either hand continue to jump out, also.

Objectively, there are some turnovers at times from Garland that can occasionally come from passes where he’s putting himself in tough situations.

That was the case in what essentially Cleveland’s last meaningful possession in their comeback effort against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, so that’s something he’ll need to trim down/try to eliminate in crucial parts of games, realistically. He also had six turnovers in the Cavaliers’ loss on Sunday at the Washington Wizards, and overall in that Orlando game.

But 3.3 turnovers per-36 minutes with the workload he’s had this season is not an awful amount for a 21-year-old lead guard, in my opinion.

And what Garland has been showcasing in regards to his timing, vision/feel and execution with both hands as an all-around passer has been such a key positive for Cleveland. That’s even while, whether or not injuries have played into it, the group has had their share of struggles, and we’ll again see on Garland with the ankle.

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That passing prowess will only aid DG as a scorer, too, and has.