Cavs: Darius Garland’s Year 2 should have fans very optimistic

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports)
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports) /

Sometimes when you watch young talented basketball players learn more about the game and their own abilities as they adjust to the NBA, it can be very exciting to speculate on the player’s future and the possibilities in front of them. With Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, that sentiment rings very true.

What Garland has been able to learn, especially this past season and the growth we’ve seen from him can’t be understated.

In almost all offensive statistical categories, Garland’s numbers have increased. But it’s the eye test that has me more excited because you can just see the talent and growth, and Cavaliers fans should be pumped to see how he continues to get better.

Garland’s improvement in Year 2 should have Cavs fans very optimistic.

Yes, Garland still makes some unbelievably boneheaded moves at times. Like when he rushes on an offensive possession and drives to the hoop and tries too often to throw the ball back up top to a teammate, and his passes get picked off by the defense. Those types of possessions drive me crazy as a fan and as a basketball coach.

From Year 1 to Year 2, Garland has really impressed me with his growth. And the stats back that up. To start with his shooting percentage on 2-point shots increased overall from 43 percent to 48 percent. On three-point shots that percentage went from 36 percent to 40 percent, and before he sustained a left ankle sprain, leading to absences down the stretch mostly, Garland really had it rolling.

Garland’s aggressiveness offensively can be seen too in his ability to draw defensive contact on drives and getting to the free throw line. With Garland playing in fewer games then last year, 54 games compared to 59 games, he still got to the line 132 times, compared to 72 times his first season.

Now, Garland did reportedly have his prior meniscus injury that cut his season at Vanderbilt short in the back of his mind in Year 1, so that likely played some into it, albeit his confidence as a driver still was noticeably better regardless.

And in general, I love when players, even more so at the point guard position understand how to distribute the ball. Garland gets it, and that was shown in his 329 assists this season compared to 229 assists last season. That’s a big improvement and a 6 assist average ranked him in the upper half of current guards in the league; his feel there led to open looks to guys such as Collin Sexton, Jarrett Allen inside, and others.

The point totals increased too as Garland increased his average from 12.3 pts to 17.4. He had several games late in the season where he went for 20 points or more, including in seven of his last ten games.

On the defensive side of the ball, Garland has continued to improve. His steals increased this past season increasing his totals from 42 to 66. His defensive rebounds increased to from 84 to 106.

That all important plus-minus statistic when the player is out on the court playing went down from a year ago, from minus-5 to minus-4.4, so that’s slightly better. Garland really needs to focus on getting that stat on the plus side moving forward.

For comparison’s sake, Portland Trail Blazer and star point guard, Damian Lilliard, had a plus-3.0 average this season and was never on the negative side of that stat line other than his rookie season in 2012.

The upside for Garland should have Cavs fans looking forward to next year. I believe we will see that continued growth in this very young 21-year-old, but I do think, on the defensive side of the ball, Garland really needs to take a significant jump to the north in all those defensive categories.

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That’s what I’ll be looking forward to watching for and hopefully after Year 2 for him, Garland understands that defense wins games and these Cavaliers need to start winning games.