Cavs: Darius Garland’s FT rate should keep increasing in Year 3

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

Last season, it was a pleasure to see Darius Garland come into his own for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After he reportedly still had a prior meniscus injury from college in the back of his mind in his first season, and just didn’t appear comfortable anyway and was fairly underwhelming, he bounced back in Year 2.

Garland had 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per outing last season, and he looked like a different player. Before missing eight of nine games in Cleveland’s closing stretch, Garland was playing particularly well, too.

In April, he had 20.5 points and 7.3 assists per game, for further context, and in a general sense, his performance in Year 2 should have Cavs fans feeling very optimistic about his future, to echo our own John Suchan’s sentiment.

Now, I would like to see Garland attempt more three-point shots game-to-game next season, as he did more so in April, for example. Albeit I would think we could very well see that play out looking onward, and in that realm, his off-the-bounce three-point shooting last season was another key positive.

That said, based on how the Vanderbilt product’s shiftiness and change-of-pace was on display throughout 2020-21, for the most part, I’d expect him to generate more free throw opportunities for himself.

Garland did improve his free throw rate from just 10.3 percent to a better 16.5 percent last season, and even while it was not nearly league average (24.7 percent last season, per Basketball Reference), that was a step forward.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Garland’s free throw rate should continue to increase in Year 3.

For Garland, he didn’t have a free throw rate that was at league average in Year 2, as we noted, but there was progress there. Garland had 2.4 free throw attempts per outing overall, and post-All-Star, that was a bit more at 3.0 per contest.

For the young lead guard, I wouldn’t expect him to have nearly the free throw attempts of say, Collin Sexton, who had 6.4 free throw attempts per game last season. Albeit with Garland being more perimeter-laiden with his shots, whereas Sexton will be more balanced, along with a guy such as Isaac Okoro, that’s to be expected.

The shiftiness for Garland having been there more last season as compared to Year 1 did lead to more free throw opportunities for him, though, and in Year 3, I believe that free throw rate will keep increasing.

For Garland, while he’s not necessarily going to absorb contact/generate the fouls near the rim as much as Sexton, as Darius is still somewhat thinner, he was more willing to take on contact more as the season progressed.

He did get stronger over the course of last offseason too, and with another offseason to work on that more, Garland could add some more muscle/some weight heading into next season feasibly as well, which could lead to more free throw generation. But we’ll see in relation to that.

In any case, with how Garland’s shiftiness was often on display in Year 2, with his perimeter shooting abilities, to go with his passing vision/feel, I’d expect him to be able to get more trips to the line game-to-game again in Year 3.

Additionally, with his shooting in regards to both floaters and from three, with more experience to come under his belt, I’d imagine Garland’s free throw rate should increase from ball fakes leading to fouls in that way, too. That played out more as the prior season wore on and he could seemingly take that a step further.

Moreover, for Garland, though I’m not certain if he’ll have a free throw rate of say, 27.0-plus percent, I could definitely see him increasing that 6.0-7.0 percent, based on last season.

And that sort of thing would indicate that the young lead guard is continuing to show encouraging signs as a scorer, and is learning to counter how opponents are looking to defend him.

Next. 2 goals for Garland in Year 3. dark

Plus, that’d be a good way to get him more in-rhythm as a shooter throughout games, as he hit 84.8 percent of his free throw attempts last season.