Darius Garland is such a multifaceted offensive player for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had a third-year breakout for the Cavaliers in the 2021-22 season, and last season, even with some early bumps in the road, posted averages of 21.6 points and 7.8 assists per game.
Garland’s combination of wide-ranging passing abilities, pick-and-roll wizardry, ball handling prowess, quickness and deep range as a shooter all make him so difficult to account for. In this now-past season, he connected on 41.0 percent of his three-point attempts per contest in the regular season, which was a career-best, and trimmed down his turnovers a bit.
Garland is one of the primary engines of Cleveland’s offense, along with Donovan Mitchell, and this next season, that will remain the status quo, to a large degree at least. Garland has found ways to add layers to his game over the course of his time with the Cavaliers, and he’s a balanced player who creates for others so well, and also can generate his own offense.
In Year 5, though, the Cavs have to use him more as an off-ball shooter, whether or not Mitchell is on the floor with him. That’d make Cleveland harder to defend and it could ensure Garland could be in-rhythm throughout games, in the same light.
Next season and moving onward, the Cavs have to weaponize Garland as an off-ball threat more.
To reiterate, Garland is one of the engines of the Cavaliers offense, and his decision-making with the ball in his hands is crucial for the success of the group. This isn’t disputing how he’s going to have the ball often, and his shot creation and gradual improvement at drawing free throws are key for Cleveland.
Despite those assumptions about him in games, and Garland being a high-usage player, with Garland’s pure shooting capabilities and the threat of that, Cleveland has to find ways to utilize him that way more.
Garland connected on a scorching 44.0 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-point attempts in the 2022-23 regular season, per NBA.com’s tracking data. If the Cavaliers can run more offense through Evan Mobley this next season, with his vision and quality decision-making feel, that could help get Garland and Mitchell some more off-ball looks.
Additionally, if the Cavs do add more shooting this offseason via free agency and/or trade, which seems likely, such as bringing in rumored targets along the likes of Royce O’Neale, Tim Hardaway Jr. or Doug McDermott, those players would help maximize Garland/Mitchell off-ball, too. The same would apply for Mobley as a playmaker, in that sense.
Garland’s off-ball shooting is an underrated aspect of his offensive repetoire, when one factors in the other on-ball elements of his play, both as a playmaker and scorer. Those are going to garner the highlights, naturally.
However, if Cleveland can counter his on-ball prowess with him being weaponized as an off-ball threat more, that’d pay dividends for Garland.
The volume was not high at just 5.6 percent, but Garland did have an effective field goal shooting clip of 66.7 percent on off screen shots last season, per Synergy Sports. On spot-up looks, his effective field goal percentage was 72.5 percent, again, per Synergy. The frequency there was 18.3 percent, for context, which would probably be a reasonable expectation moving forward for him.
Driving the point home, though, to help juice Cleveland’s offense and realistically, to make Cleveland more multiple in the playoffs, if Garland is utilized off-ball more, it could really pay off for the Cavs set offense. Plus, if that threat is there more regularly, his presence could definitely open up other layers to the Cavaliers offense by opening up cutters more, and feasibly other shooters.
This isn’t discounting DG’s playmaking, nor his shot creation, but looking onward, the Cavaliers have to tap into his pure shooting abilities more consistently to help max out his and their potential offensively.