Emerging NBA players often find their names compared to established legends of the game, whether for better or for worse. The Cavaliers young core is full of incredible potential, and the world has not been shy to compare these players to their greatest predecessors.
Since his draft night, Evan Mobley has been compared to Kevin Garnett, Bam Adebayo, and many other great big men in NBA history. Mobley has seemingly rose to the occasion of greatness, earning a spot on the 2022-23 NBA All-Defensive First Team, a historic feat for his sophomore year campaign.
Alongside Mobley’s development has been that of one-time All-Star Darius Garland, who Cleveland selected fifth overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. After a sluggish first two seasons, Garland has entered the league’s upper echelon of point guards. He was selected to the 2022 NBA All-Star Game as a reserve and continued to improve once the Cavaliers added another All-Star guard in Donovan Mitchell at his side.
Last season, Garland averaged 21.6 points and 7.8 assists on 53.7 efficient field goal percentage. While Garland certainly had an argument for a second All-Star appearance, his extended eye injury during Cleveland’s season opener against the Toronto Raptors sidelined the talented guard and hurt his chances to be selected.
Entering his fourth season, Darius Garland is growing into an on-court leader for the Cavaliers, tearing defenses apart with his shifty ballhandling and unstoppable playmaking. With such tremendous work, Garland could learn from past legends and mold his game to become a Cavaliers legend for himself.
Undoubtedly, Garland has solidified himself in the NBA for a long, successful career, and the NBA media has noticed. J.J. Redick, former 15-year NBA player and current ESPN analyst and podcaster, praised Garland’s intelligence and development in a recent clip from his “Old Man and the Three” podcast.
Redick opens the segment to discuss players with potential for a breakout year but changes topics to compare Garland to one of the greatest point guards of all time, 11-time All-NBA guard and 5-time assist champion Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns. Redick names Paul the “the ultimate thinker of the game” and believes Garland is similar in his approach.
"“I think for a young point guard, the way [Garland] he thinks the game, it reminds me a little bit of a young Chris Paul”-J.J. Redick"
Redick said he thinks Garland had a tremendous season that flew under the radar and will be set for a better season with Cleveland. In year two with Donovan Mitchell, Redick believes Garland will really figure everything out, making the most of the additions of Max Strus and Georges Niang as lethal shooters in the rotation.
This summer, Strus came to Cleveland in a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat, signing a four-year, $63 million contract. Recently, Cavaliers insider Chris Fedor confirmed Cleveland’s intention to place Strus in their starting roster. Should Garland reach the heights of Chris Paul, continuing his growth as an offensive coordinator will be critical next season. With Strus on the court, Garland’s court vision decisive passing will maximize Strus’ value as a motion shooter on the wing, advancing Garland’s growth in Cleveland.
Commenting on the Cavaliers’ loss in the playoffs, Redick argued that Garland had a strong series, though nobody on Cleveland played great, and will be able to learn a lot from that loss. In the playoffs, Garland averaged 20.6 points and 5 assists, but his defense and inconsistency stunted his productivity. Garland still managed to shoot a stunning 38.7 percent from 3-point range on 6.2 attempts per game. While the Cavaliers lost in five games to the New York Knicks, Garland will be able to take those lessons and enter next season more prepared to lead this Cleveland team to greater success.
Redick’s comparison to an all-time great point guard is a tremendous compliment to the 23-year-old Garland. With Darius Garland and Evan Mobley entering their third season as a duo, the Cavaliers are prepared for an even better finish to their season than their last.