2 Cavaliers players to pay close attention to post-All-Star break

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers / Patrick Smith/GettyImages
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Thanks to quite the surge for the squad in much of 2024, the Cleveland Cavaliers clocked out of pre-All-Star break play at No. 2 in the Eastern Conference Standings.

The Wine and Gold were rolling along in much of January and February, led by Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen and a group that was gelling at a high level on both ends of the floor. It had been so exciting to watch for an extended period, and Evan Mobley and Darius Garland back in the fold for the stretch run should only make Cleveland more dangerous.

It's been three games, but the Cavaliers unfortunately have not looked the same since returning from the break. The Cavs have lost two of three outings, and despite a schedule crunch in that time back and Mitchell missing the opening back-to-back, the Wine and Gold have had some issues resurface with stagnation and not getting up enough threes. The bench hasn't looked the same, either.

All things considered, it's not time to panic just yet, as the Cavs are a talented and deep group, and they can get going again soon enough, as they've shown.

Still, ahead of the stretch run to the playoffs, the playstyle of this group, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff's decisions and company are managing lineups, and how the Cavaliers fare in what's going to be a tough March. In particular, there's also a couple of Wine and Gold contributors fans should be keeping a watchful eye on from here the rest of the way.

No. 1: Darius Garland

This one does not come as a surprise. Darius Garland has not played his best basketball this season.

It's hardly been all on him, though, as Garland has dealt with multiple ailments, and he came back a few weeks ago after missing extended time because of a jaw fracture. Garland was not able to eat any solid food with a wire in his jaw over that time, and he was having to balance getting his conditioning up to par along with gaining back some weight. It was inevitable to see a dip in Garland's production early in his return.

Since he's back, there have been flashes, but it hasn't been what one is normally accustomed to see from Garland. In 12 contests upon his return, he's had splits of 14.1 points and 6.7 assists per outing. He was on a minutes restriction for several games, but his shooting only 32.8 percent from three-point land shouldn't be ignored.

Garland still has his moments as a shot creator, and his passing still has dazzles in stretches. Despite those positives, he doesn't appear to be playing nearly how he's capable yet. Even with numerous other guys involved, Garland is a crucial component to this team's success, meaning his struggles also cause issues for the Cavs as a whole.

He was seemingly on the verge of hitting his stride before he suffered the jaw injury, and Garland can give this Cavs team a different gear when he's playing his best. Still, he just hasn't been himself for much of the season whether he is on the court with Mitchell or running the show solo.

If DG can stabilize things and balance getting other guys quality looks, and play at or near his best, it would go a long way for Cleveland from here and in the playoffs. He has to pick it up, though, there's no doubt about that.