In his first batch of games in the 2023-24 campaign, Cleveland Cavaliers lead guard Darius Garland had not shot the ball nearly how he's capable of. Garland went one-of-12 from three-point range (8.3 percent) in his first three contests, and had 17.7 points per game.
It was hardly how one would typically expect Garland to play as such a multifaceted shooter, and player who is a gifted shot-maker at that.
Despite the struggles from the outside, what had been a positive scoring takeaway from his play early on had been how he hadn't simply settled.
Garland has had plenty of success when he's driven the ball, which has led to buckets for himself, and he's gotten to the free throw line, which is always meaningful in games. As he’s gotten healthier, as opposed to his first batch of games this season, when he clearly did not look like himself, coming off dealing with a hamstring injury (and he had a neck issue at other points), his downhill play has been key.
Garland's paint pressure has been and will continually be crucial for the Cavaliers.
The injuries and him taking time to find his rhythm was part of the reasoning, along with lack of group cohesion, partially because of injuries to the group as a whole, but Garland hasn't had the best start from the outside. He's hit 33.3 percent of his three-point attempts this season, and as was previously alluded to, he was initially way off. Him having 4.8 three-point attempts per game has to be something that's addressed from here, too; that's not enough for him.
He should round back into form from deep, though, given what Garland can do and has shown in the past few seasons. Having said that, one of the positives from Garland to this point has been his paint pressure, and as a scorer and passer, that should keep paying dividends and help set the tone.
The deep ball still has to be a key point of emphasis for the Cavaliers' perimeter players, and Garland at times has passed up some looks from there, however, his downhill play has been encouraging, and one shouldn't diminish that.
In his 15 appearances this season, Garland has connected on 59.3 percent of his restricted area shot attempts, per NBA.com's shooting data. He hasn't fared nearly as well there of late as compared to earlier in the campaign, but he has not been deterred by contact, and he's generated his share of free throws.
Plus, Garland has converted on 46.3 percent of his non-restricted area paint attempts, where his touch and craftiness has led to him knocking down those looks. And with that in mind, it should make him more adept at the rim as games progress from here.
Garland's willingness to get into the paint has gradually opened up his teammates as well, and hopefully, Cleveland will create more productive ball-swings off of that in upcoming games and as the new Cavs get further acclimated. Max Strus and Georges Niang are a couple of contributors that jump out in that regard, for instance, and Niang has started to pick it up from range.
In any case, while Garland has had his problems with live-ball turnovers, and there have been ups and downs about a quarter of the way into the year for him and the team, when he's gotten downhill on his terms and has been aggressive, good things have occurred.
That much is very evident to this point, and for now, that could help Garland get in-rhythm more game-to-game, and that threat and his foul drawing can't hurt him in relation to hopefully getting going more from deep.