FanSided 25-under-25 list finally gives Garland his due

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the best young cores in the NBA. Each of their four stars is 27 years old or younger, and Evan Mobley is just 22. They won 51 games a season ago and look poised to repeat the feat, but they also aren’t a group that’s going to drop off due to age anytime soon.

While Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen have aged off of the “best young players in the league” lists, Darius Garland and Mobley are still fair game. They are good enough to show up on the NBA’s top players lists while also being amongst the young players best poised to grow.

Every year at FanSided the team ranks the 25 best players under 25, and the latest edition just dropped. Where did Garland and Mobley land?

Darius Garland ranked fifth

Darius Garland checked in at No. 5 on the list, a vote of confidence from the panel of contributors. In Ian Levy’s write-up of why Garland was ranked fifth, he pointed to Garland’s incredible shooting and savvy passing. He also highlighted Garland’s elite accuracy from 28 feet or beyond last season, noting that if Garland is more willing to take those he can truly break defenses.

What is so striking about Garland’s ranking is not that he doesn’t deserve it; he absolutely does. He was an All-Star two seasons ago, was even more efficient last season while integrating another on-ball star in the backcourt, and he fits the modern game perfectly. He has plenty of room to grow and compares favorably to other All-Star guards. The surprising part is that no one else seems to have the same vote of confidence in Garland.

ESPN’s Top 100 (players of all ages) ranked Garland at No. 36, behind such players as Trae Young, Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson and Jaren Jackson Jr, not to mention Paolo Banchero (somehow No. 30 on ESPN’s list). CBS also stuck Garland at No. 36, pushing Domantas Sabonis, James Harden Draymond Green above him, among others.

The Ringer put him No. 35, with Karl-Anthony Towns above him. HoopsHype put him 38th, pushing Banchero and Zach LaVine above him. Seth Partnow of The Athletic placed him in “Tier 4” in a group from 40-54 in the league, in the same group as CJ McCollum, Chris Paul, Derrick White and O.G. Anunoby. Yahoo’s Top 40 didn’t include him at all.

The general consensus around the media landscape appears to be that Garland is outside of the top tier perimeter players, a small guard who is clearly behind such players as De’Aaron Fox, Jalen Brunson, Kyrie Irving and Trae Young. None of those players are young enough to appear on a “25 under 25” list, but Garland ranking above names like Banchero, Jackson Jr. and Tyrese Maxey properly values his current play and future upside.

Garland is ready to break out

That upside is important, because there is still meat on the bone for Garland’s game. Levy highlighted one such area, which is Garland’s personal range; he is such a sniper from deep that he could increase his volume and more than make up for any drop in accuracy while pulling defenses further out from the three-point line. He doesn’t have to be Damian Lillard, but he may have that range in his bag.

What’s more, the Cavaliers went out this summer and added multiple shooters. That will allow Garland more space to run pick-and-rolls with the Cavs’ bigs and actually have space to operate once he gets into the paint. He also has been moving off-ball more during the preseason, unlocking the part of his game that players like Stephen Curry are so lethal with.

Garland could average 27 points per game or more if Donovan Mitchell wasn’t on the team, but the fact that he is able to put up 21.6 points per game on his efficiency while playing alongside another ball-dominant guard in Mitchell is truly impressive. His arrow is only pointing up.

Where did Evan Mobley rank?

The FanSided team placed Evan Mobley at No. 10 on the list, surprisingly above Paolo Banchero but surprisingly below Tyrese Maxey. They highlighted Mobley’s insane defensive versatility but asked some questions about how real his offensive upside is, and how long it will take him to realize it.

Mobley didn’t take the offensive leap last season that many were hoping for, but his defensive gains were triumphant. Mobley also managed to maintain his production while decreasing his volume in a more crowded offensive ecosystem, and his growth as an offensive player is hampered playing alongside Jarrett Allen in all areas but shooting, and it’s not fair to Mobley to shoehorn him into simply one box. Mobley’s passing, touch and energy are parts of the story of his offensive trajectory.

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Either Mobley or Garland could take another large leap forward this season, and do so even without massive changes in their box score stats. If they do, the ceiling on the Cavs only increases, and their ability to make waves in the Eastern Conference this season and beyond. Perhaps this year Garland will finally get his due.