Darius Garland is beginning to find his rhythm within the Cleveland Cavaliers offense.
Fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers were split on the decision to draft Darius Garland No. 5 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. The franchise had selected a guard in last year’s lottery and desperately needed a wing or big man.
Garland’s fit alongside the rest of the team was immediately brought into question, however, his potential as a pure scorer was too much for the Cavaliers to overlook.
Early on, it looked as if the Cavs had made a grave mistake choosing Garland. The rookie shot a horrid 21-of-72 (29.2 percent) from the floor through his first seven games. He racked up just 23 assists and 17 total turnovers during this time.
It was clear that Garland lacked confidence. The 19-year old had just missed the majority of his collegiate career with a knee injury and was now thrown into the fire as a starter in the NBA.
Garland was very tentative shooting the ball early on. He often passed up good looks and hesitated to shoot even when wide open. This is a problem that head coach John Beilein made sure to fix by giving Garland a green light to shoot the ball.
However, Garland’s issues stemmed deeper than inexperience and a lack of confidence. The team around him was struggling and there was little he could do to change their playstyle.
Players such as Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson have become notorious for their lack of court awareness. Though both are talented scorers, neither have a knack for finding open teammates.
Playing alongside both Sexton and Clarkson for extended periods of time had a direct impact on Garland’s slow start. It is no coincidence that Garland has had his most successful stretch of the season directly after Clarkson’s trade.
With more freedom to operate within the offense, Garland has taken a massive step forward in his development. Since the Cavs traded Clarkson, Garland is averaging 15.3 points and 4.3 assists on 47.5 percent shooting from the floor. He has now scored 14 or more points in each of his last six games. Before, DG had reached the 14 point mark in only 9-of-33 games.
He is finally displaying the creativity that made him so special in college. Garland has taken defenders by surprise with his bag of tricks and is becoming more and more crafty in his attack.
Garland is not only showing signs as a scorer, but he is rapidly improving as a playmaker too. He has racked up 35 total assists in his last six games while only committing 13 turnovers.
Most importantly, Garland is finding a way to coexist alongside Sexton. The Young Bull is off to a red-hot start to the New Year, scoring 22.3 points per game on 46.4 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
Much of his success is due to the fact that the Cavaliers are now playing Sexton more off-ball while allowing Garland to orchestrate the offense. The dynamic between these two guards is becoming as strong as they recently upset the Denver Nuggets in a combined 43 point performance.
Garland, in particular, silenced the Nuggets with six straight points in the final minutes. His footwork was on full display, stopping on a dime before floating a jump shot over Denver’s defense to seal the victory.
There is no doubt that Garland is beginning to arrive as a rising star in the NBA. If he continues on this path, he will become the future of the franchise in no time.