Darius Garland is undoubtedly the Cleveland Cavaliers’ primary playmaker going forward, given what he’s shown throughout his time with Cleveland. That’s not breaking news.
Garland was not an All-Star last season, but he was again steady, and while he has to be more steady in the playoffs from here, he’ll benefit from his taste of the postseason this past go-around, and continue to round out his game. He was one of just nine players that had at least 20 points and seven assists per game last season, and in Year 4, he connected on 41.0 percent of his three-point attempts.
For playmaking depth beyond Garland, though, it seems reasonable that the Cavaliers will feature a number of others.
Even with his struggles in his return coming off his ACL tear the season prior, Ricky Rubio seemed primed to handle some of the rotational primary playmaking duties. Rubio’s always been an elite passer and has terrific feel for getting his teammates quality looks, and with more time to establish some rhythm leading into next season, he could feasibly bounce back.
But, with Rubio taking a break from basketball to address his mental health, other Cavaliers will be involved from here, one would assume, in helping to ease the workload on Garland.
A few guys come to mind at first glance there, with Caris LeVert being one, offseason signing Ty Jerome, and realistically, Donovan Mitchell will still be a notable playmaker for other Cavs. Plus, it appears that in his upcoming third year, Evan Mobley could be in line for more of the playmaking work, as a pseudo hub big for stretches with his size, vision and instincts in play there.
Cleveland’s reserve playmaking will be by committee, to some extent.
The Cavs’ reserve playmaking duties will likely have a by committee approach, at least to some degree, which is the right call.
Garland is going to still have his share of playmaking workload, which, as one of the game’s best passers, is apparent. He’s only gotten better and better in that aspect, and hopefully as he gains more experience handling pressure, will continue to fine-tune his skill set in hitting shooters and interior threats, and playing in pick-and-roll.
With the aforementioned Rubio stepping away from basketball, though, Cleveland seems set to go to Jerome more regularly maybe earlier on than expected next season, and LeVert will help as a significant passing presence. Jerome is a capable ball mover for stretches, and LeVert averaged 3.9 assists per contest last year, his career average, and a solid 4.6 assists per-36 minutes. From there, in instances where they’re staggered in contests, Donovan Mitchell could very well be a de facto lead playmaker, also, of which he’s gradually improved at over the past few seasons.
But overall, hopefully with better shooting and spacing with players such as Max Strus and Georges Niang in the fold with others, movement can be more fluid throughout games for Cleveland. That’d put less of the responsibility on Garland in the grand scheme, and in the same light, he could potentially be more involved as an off-ball shooter if that were to be how things play out.
Generally speaking, while the Cavs could deploy the likes of Jerome a bunch next season as a backup lead guard option, when he’s in games, it’s realistic to foresee him, LeVert and Mitchell sharing those duties, aside from Garland. And next season, based on Koby Altman’s comments last month, the Wine and Gold could play through Mobley more it seems, when he could be in line for a larger role on offense.
It remains to be seen if Garland can play some more legit stretches off-ball next season, but regarding some reserve stretches, with the uncertainty involving Rubio, the Cavaliers will likely go with a by committee approach, to some extent at least.
Whether or not Rubio is a possible trade candidate at some point, that by committee approach could pay off to keep the team more fresh in the long run. And as a general offensive outlook, more productive off-ball man movement and ball movement game-to-game should hopefully help the team, and make the offense more versatile.