Darius Garland has proven himself to be one of the crucial players for the Cleveland Cavaliers over the course of the last three seasons. Garland had a bounce-back campaign in his second season, a Year 3 breakout in the 2021-22 season, resulting in his first All-Star appearance, and this year, he’s had a quality follow-up.
This season, Garland was not named an All-Star, and he did have some struggles at times earlier on in the year, but it was a productive season for the emerging lead guard. Garland had 21.6 points and 7.8 assists per game, and he connected on a career-best 41.0 percent of his three-point attempts, which were 6.0 per contest.
Now, Garland isn’t going to generate the same level of pub Donovan Mitchell has throughout his first season with the Cavaliers following his trade acquisition last offseason. Granted, Mitchell is a four-time All-Star in six NBA seasons, and Garland is not nearly the athlete of Mitchell, and Mitchell was Cleveland’s recent blockbuster trade add.
That being said, in the playoffs, Garland will have a chance to help lead the Cavaliers on a deep run, and in the process, further solidify himself as one of the game’s best young guards, and further cement his star status in the league.
Now’s the time for Garland to further cement himself as a star for the Cavs.
Garland has had a quality fourth season in the Association, and despite some hiccups earlier on in the campaign, and a bit of an adjustment with the arrival of Mitchell, he’s steadied the waters often for the Cavaliers. His own development as a table setter for Cleveland has factored into the growth of Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and others such as Caris LeVert and Cedi Osman have benefited immensely from Garland’s passing abilities, timing and feel for getting guys looks in their go-to spots.
Under the bright lights of the playoffs, the Cavs need Garland to play to his potential, including as a shot-maker, and be more efficient in the scoring sense, that is, than he was in the past few weeks of the regular season. In his last 11 appearances, Garland was still making the playmaking impact, with 7.2 assists per outing, but he shot only 28.6 percent from three, and his true shooting percentage was only 51.0, far below his on the season at 58.7.
In that stretch of contests, Garland did have the second-best net rating on the Cavaliers at plus-11.1, to his credit. So, it’s not as if he wasn’t making things happen for the Wine and Gold, and throughout his season, he’s made improvements as a decision-maker, and found ways to get to the free throw line more, with him being in Year 4. His continued strides as a driver and shot-maker have played into him having five 30-point games, two 40-point games and a 50-point game this season.
Point being, for the Cavaliers, they are going to need Garland to aid the club as a playmaker of course, and at times, for him to be efficient in handling pressure and in pick-and-roll situations. He has had issues as a shooter in clutch time when needed this season; that’s not to suggest he hasn’t made plays for others or opened up open looks for them, though.
But objectively, whether it’s against the New York Knicks in Round 1, feasibly versus the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and Jrue Holiday in Round 2, or looking potentially onward from there, Cleveland is going to need Garland to hit some big-time clutch shots as well. That’s feasibly to help ease some of the load on Mitchell. Evan Mobley could be a difference-maker offensively for the Cavaliers in this playoff run, too, for what it’s worth, and we should be confident he’s ready to step up to the stage.
In the playoffs, to come, however, now is the time for Garland to further his place as a star guard in the league. There has to be some leeway at times, in fairness, as this is his going to be his first playoff experience.
Even having said that, for the Cavs to make a deep run, which they are capable of, DG the PG has to showcase he’s ready to ball on a big way on this stage, and make some key plays down the stretch. That could be pertaining to him doing so both as a passer and shooter/scorer when needed.