Cavs: Darius Garland’s finishing strides were on display in Year 2

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

It was a relief to see how Darius Garland performed in his second season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his rookie campaign, Garland’s play was underwhelming; he had 12.3 points and 3.9 assists per outing, and his approach was somewhat timid.

On-par with that, he reportedly had his prior meniscus injury that cut his lone collegiate season at Vanderbilt in the back of his mind. That made sense, as Garland was hesitating it seemed too often and him not fully trusting the knee/burst probably was a significant reason for that.

Garland beginning his first season affected by a foot injury wasn’t ideal, either, and he started out stumbling out of the gates, to a large degree.

In Year 2, it was an entirely different song and dance for the young lead guard, who now looks to be Cleveland’s primary playmaker of the future, to echo KJG’s own Joey Cornell’s sentiment. He averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per contest, and hit 39.5 percent of his three-point attempts per contest, which was a step up from 35.5 percent in 2019-20.

There were a few injuries, such as him having missed eight games earlier on because of a right shoulder sprain. Plus, him having closed out the season missing eight of nine games because of a left ankle sprain was unfortunate, especially with how Garland had the best month of his young career in April.

In that span, although the big workload, some because of Cleveland’s injuries played into it, he still had 20.5 points and 7.3 assists per outing. Along with that, he knocked in 38.5 percent of his three-point attempts, of which were 6.4 per game.

As the season wore on, though, Garland seemed to gain more confidence as a finisher, too. We’ll focus on that here.

Garland’s finishing strides were on display in his second season for the Cavs.

In his first season, Garland struggled mightily as a finisher, and converted on only 44.1 percent of his shot attempts in the restricted area, per’s shooting data.

The prior knee injury likely played into that, and we didn’t nearly see the shiftiness from him that was shown throughout his second season, when he was fully himself for the most part.

In Year 2, while it wasn’t nearly what’s typically league average of 60.0 percent in the restricted area, Garland did take noticeable strides as a finisher. He hit 57.1 percent in the restricted area in his second season for Cleveland, again per’s shooting data.

Him hitting 55.1, 55.2 percent and then 62.5 percent of his restricted area shot attempts showed progress in that realm, and that’s something for him to build on in that realm.

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The overall restricted area hit rate for the young lead guard was a fairly significant improvement, and the approach for him, and Garland showcasing his deep range more led to him being able to convert much more often near the basket.

Along with that, his playmaking abilities/improvement there, as a lob thrower to guys such as Jarrett Allen and Isaiah Hartenstein, passer to cutters and to shooters such as Collin Sexton at times, Isaac Okoro and Dean Wade also did, too.

Garland showing more shiftiness on-ball led to more separation for him from primary defenders, and in pick-and-roll situations, the threat of his floaters/push shots as the year progressed led to more interior looks for him.

From there, he was able to finish with touch more, to go with him showing impressive body control via up-and-unders and after some spins at times. And there were a number of finishes high off the window with both hands, even up to about six-seven feet out as a counter somewhat to those.

Plus, even while his overall free throw rate of 16.5 percent wasn’t high, and he likely will take some time to get more robust free throw rates game-to-game, Garland having 2.7 free throws per-36 minutes in 2020-21 was a positive step. He also had 3.2 per outing in his last 22 starts of Year 2, which was a good sign.

Hopefully we see Garland continue to get stronger over the offseason to come, and though he did get more toned up/add muscle in the past offseason, adding a bit of functional weight could perhaps aid him, too.

He did show more capability to get through off-ball screens defensively in Year 2, somewhat in that regard as well, which was encouraging, as were his strides in the team defensive realm, for what it’s worth.

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Circling back, though, while the primary playmaking and perimeter shooting strides got more of the praise throughout the season, DG’s finishing strides shouldn’t be discounted, either. I can’t wait to see what plays out for him in that area in Year 3.