Last season, we saw Darius Garland really come into his own for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his first season with Cleveland, his prior meniscus injury that cut short his lone collegiate campaign at Vanderbilt was reportedly in the back of his mind, and he appeared somewhat hesitant.
It wasn’t just the prior injury though, as Garland didn’t nearly have the feel he displayed as a playmaker/scoring threat last season then, either. Garland was, no matter how you slice it, fairly underwhelming in Year 1.
Fortunately, it was a different story in Year 2, and prior to missing eight of nine games in the closing batch of outings for the season, Garland was playing so well. For the season in general when he was in there, for the most part, he looked very comfortable, too.
In 2020-21, the young lead guard had 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per contest, and knocked down 39.5 percent of his three-point attempts.
The strides he made as a finisher in his bounce-back season were something that jumped out to me, too, particularly as the year wore on. The shiftiness he had, of which wasn’t shown as much in Year 1, was often on display on his drives/plays on-ball leading to baskets near the rim and/or with quality push shots.
The change-of-pace, but also burst led to Garland being more capable as a passer as well, which aided others.
Circling back to the scoring/shooting element from him last season though, Garland’s off-the-bounce shooting, particularly from three-point range, was another key positive. He’ll look to continue that in Year 3.
Garland will look to keep trending up as an off-the-bounce deep shooter for the Cavs.
Garland again hit a robust 39.5 percent of his three-point shot attempts overall in Year 2, which was a plus.
On the subject, I thought him hitting 35.7 percent of his 2.4 pull-up triple attempts last season, per NBA.com’s shot tracking data (on a 16.3 percent frequency), was encouraging too.
While he did start out slower in that realm, that clip was a better one post-All-Star, in which Garland knocked in 38.2 percent from there (on a 19.2 percent frequency) leading into the end of the season/him missing time because of the ankle injury.
And I would anticipate that we could very well see him stay on that upward trajectory in terms of pull-up three-point shooting next season. Garland’s shiftiness displayed in Year 2, and even more so post-All-Star, led to him creating more separation for getting to pull-up triples, and his confidence with those grew as the year wore on.
From there, it was nice to see Garland appear to be more comfortable as last season progressed with getting to step back threes. On those, he hit 39.4 percent of his 33 attempts post-All-Star in 26 games, and on the season, hit 19 of 49 of those, a 38.8 percent clip, per NBA.com’s shooting data.
I can’t say for certain as to what the volume will end up being for DG in relation to the frequency of pull-up/step back/perhaps side step triples, but a frequency of that being in the 21.0 percent range wouldn’t seem unreasonable moving forward.
His efficiency and growth as an off-the-bounce three-point shooter was something that definitely jumped out to me last season and again, even more so post-All-Star, though, and he’ll look to keep trending up in that area.
Granted, I would like to see the Cavaliers aid in getting more off-movement looks for Garland, seemingly via deliveries from Collin Sexton, Kevin Love, Isaac Okoro and/or others as a counter.
Albeit what is still clear is that with how Darius’ confidence was at a different level leading into May/with it growing more and more as his second year wore on, I’d expect him to build on that and keep trending upward as an off-the-bounce three-point shooter.
Hopefully the 21-year-old can build on the momentum he had leading up to the left ankle sprain in the closing stretch and do so next season/looking onward. That’d make him even more difficult to account for in the pick-and-roll, both as a scorer and playmaker.