The 2023-24 NBA season will quickly be underway, and the Cleveland Cavaliers look primed for a greater season than last after their successful offseason moves.
Cleveland’s recent rise was not an overnight phenomenon, although it was an accelerated rebuild in many ways. After only winning 41 games throughout the 2019-20 and 2020-21 campaigns, the Cavaliers earned a spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament in the 2021-22 season in no small part thanks to the sudden emergence of point guard Darius Garland.
Garland, drafted fifth overall out of Vanderbilt in the 2019 NBA Draft, earned his first All-Star appearance in 2022 in his third season. That year, he averaged 21.7 points and 8.6 assists and shot 38.3 percent from 3-point range. With Garland alongside a dominant frontcourt in Jarrett Allen and then-rookie Evan Mobley, the Cavaliers realized they had something special. Although they fell short in the Play-In Tournament to the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland was ready to buy into their core.
In September that offseason, the Cavaliers traded for perennial All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. In the 2022-23 season, Mitchell led the Cavs in scoring and set a franchise record 71 points scored in a single game. After the season concluded, Mitchell was named to the All-NBA Second Team, a career-best accolade for the star guard.
While Cleveland’s 51-win regular season was cause for celebration, their quick loss in the playoffs to the New York Knicks fractured that enthusiasm. The team’s poor offensive movement and long range shooting played a significant role in the Cavs’ downfall. In response, the organization opened free agency with a flurry of deals being done, namely a sign-and-trade for Miami’s Max Strus (thanks to Kevin Love) and a multi-year offer for Georges Niang from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Entering next season, the returning and newest Cavaliers will give Darius Garland the most versatile offense he has ever had, leading to speculation and question as to how it will be best utilized.
Spencer Davies of Fan Nation spoke to Garland in the midst of Cleveland’s training camp and wasted no time in asking a question plenty of fans wanted to ask. Will Garland get more aggressive from beyond the arc?
It is no secret the Cavaliers need to pick up the pace, having placed last in the Association in pacing last year. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has touched on the topic, citing he is hoping to lead a more dynamic team this season, pushing the tempo more and integrating the team’s ability to move off the ball.
When asked about his own shooting, Garland replied, “Yeah. I think that’s the whole goal, to be honest with you.” The star point guard also mentioned the team will need to take care of the ball with their faster pace, looking for open shots and playing smart.
Davies probed a bit further, asking Garland if he had a specific number of 3-point attempts per game in mind. Unsurprisingly, Garland humbly said nothing other than “as many as I can.”
The hype behind Garland as a high volume shooter comes from the dynamism he showed all last season. Cleveland’s point guard shot 44.1 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers and 39.1 percent from pull-up attempts, per NBA.com stat tracking. With greater floor spacing, Garland will expectedly have a better share of opportunities to splash from range.
Garland is quickly becoming one of the best shooters in the NBA, and Davies is far from the only media member hoping Garland will become more lethal from outside this season.
Many view an increase in 3-point attempts as a catalyst for a deeper playoff run next postseason. In the aftermath of a seemingly unstoppable long range dynasty in the prime Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson era Golden State Warriors, it is no surprise to see a fanbase excited to have such an elite 3-point shooter in the Land.
One thing for certain is that Garland has the basketball IQ to know when to pull it from deep, when to drive and when to pass. His creativity and ingenuity on the court has led to comparisons to NBA legends, most recently Chris Paul. Although Garland did not earn an All-Star spot last season, his overall game saw steady improvement in efficiency and productivity. Next season, the Cavaliers will undoubtedly look to Garland as a fire starter and offensive initiator.
This coming NBA campaign will be an opportunity for Garland not only to make his second All-Star game, but to prove his spot in the highest tier of respect and talent among NBA guards. An increase in long range shooting would surely influence this and also simply lead to a much more exciting season to watch for the Cleveland faithful.