Darius Garland made his first NBA All-Star appearance last season, and deservedly so. The Cleveland Cavaliers point guard averaged 21.6 points, 7.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
Top 25 NBA Players Under 25: No. 8 – Darius Garland
Garland’s Impact in Cleveland
Garland’s efficiency from the field was just as impressive as he boasted 46/41/86 shooting splits. His 41 percent three-point shooting was the highest of his career. It’s a massive boost for the Cavaliers’ offense, allowing Donovan Mitchell room to operate. The two Cleveland guards are amongst the league’s best shooters, making them a difficult duo to guard because you can’t help off of the other one.
Garland is also an ideal complementary point guard for the Cavaliers’ big men, specifically Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Both have tremendous length and are excellent defenders, which cover for Garland’s and Mitchell’s weaknesses. However, Garland is necessarily a defense liability. Instead, he’s closer to a net zero. For instance, Garland was still a plus 0.7 on the defensive RAPTOR rating last season. His rating is despite his limited size at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds.
Garland’s lack of size and the fact that he went to a relatively more minor basketball school in Vanderbilt University could have played a role in him falling to the No. 5 overall pick. Still, he’s always been an elite shooter, which has seamlessly translated to the NBA level.
Offensive Skill Set
Garland’s ability to score at all three levels, combined with his ballhandling and playmaking ability, make him already amongst the league’s best offensive guards despite only being 23. He finished with a plus 3.6 RAPTOR offensive rating, good for 22nd in the entire NBA.
Garland is already capable of single-handedly taking over games. The fact that Clevland has two guards that have the skill set to score 50 points on any given night is a scary sight for opposing teams and difficult to game plan around. The only thing the Cavaliers are missing is more reliable wing play. If they can figure out their starting small forward and find 3-and-D depth pieces to complement Garland and Mitchell, then the Cavaliers will have enough talent to make a deep playoff run.
Areas of Improvement
Garland doesn’t have many aspects of his game that need improving. That’s both good and bad, depending on how you view it. His well-rounded game and versatility relative to his size is excellent. However, his potential to become a genuinely elite superstar is limited because of the very same reason. There’s only so much more Garland can do. He’s closer to his ceiling compared to other under-25 players who make the ranking.
Still, it’s also a testament to the fact that Garland has such a refined game at such a young age. It’s also why Garland was a first-time NBA All-Star, why the Cavaliers made the playoffs, and why Garland comes in at No. 8.
Last Word on Darius Garland
The best is yet to come for both Garland and the Cavaliers. They did a great job of building out the rest of their core to fit Garland’s timeline. Garland is their foundational piece that catalyzed the new-look Cavaliers team, which is already a consistent playoff lock and could be an Eastern Conference Finals contender.