Evaluating Garland’s defense
On the defensive end, Garland is not going to be a Jrue Holiday-type player in his career. He still gets beat on-ball a bit too often for anyone’s liking, and he can simply be compromised in some matchups.
Garland is going to be physically limited with his frame in some instances, and it can lead to the Cavaliers team defense taking unnecessary fouls, or conceding open corner triples from ball-swings off of penetration.
However, Garland is much better defensively for Cleveland than he was in first two seasons, and this season he took another step forward on that end with his play.
He’s forced 43 offensive fouls during the regular season, by far and away a career-best mark, and while the likes of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are going to help as rim deterrents, naturally, Garland’s pick-and-roll defense did show clear improvements this year. He placed in the 75th percentile in primary defense against PnR ball handlers this season, per Synergy Sports. With the volume having been 295 possessions, his success there was something that jumped out.
As for the team defensive aspect, Garland had a respectable 1.2 steals per contest, to go with 2.0 deflections per contest, per NBA.com’s hustle data. His anticipation and timing as an off-ball defender has been impressive throughout the year, and despite some on-ball limitations, his activity as a team defender has enabled the Cavs to generate more live-ball turnovers as the year has worn on.
Garland’s regularly made multiple-effort plays to help the Cavs as a rotator this season, as has Donovan Mitchell, and it’s been refreshing to see from Cleveland’s top two offensive weapons. In the playoffs, those two will need to continue displaying that sort of effort as helpers as well.
Garland’s 2022-23 defensive play: B
Garland’s overall play
Garland has been a steady performer for much of the 2022-23 regular season for the Cavaliers, and as we emphasized, his offensive scoring splits were nearly identical to last year, in his breakout season.
Garland had to realistically sacrifice a bit in his role with the arrival of Mitchell, and it took some growing pains. Still, he’s been very efficient, in the grand scheme, throughout his fourth season, and his unselfishness has helped Mobley in his offensive progression, and Garland has aided countless others in generating great looks for them.
As for the overall aspect, he’s been rock solid. On the season, Garland’s total plus-minus has been the seventh-best in the NBA, at plus-438, per NBA.com, which demonstrates how he effective he’s been as the primary engine of the Cavaliers offense, at still only 23.
Sure, there have been some hiccups here and there, but with him having to adjust to Mitchell being brought in, help the development of Mobley, and take another step as a leader, an A- grade seems reasonable. And this is factoring in how Garland showed improvement in drawing fouls and with his defense as well.