Former Cleveland Cavaliers beat writer and current ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst thinks the Cavs should pay Darius Garland.
And pay him sooner rather than later.
Speaking with members of the ESPN Cleveland team, Windhorst admitted he was surprised about Garland’s jump this season, even if he hasn’t quite hit that Trae Young–Ja Morant level:
Dollars and Sense
According to Windhorst, a new max contract for Garland would land in the $33-$34 million dollar per year range.
This would be one of the richest contracts the Cavs have ever paid out to a player, surpassing Kevin Love’s current contract (four years; $120 million).
It would likely be on par with LeBron James’ contract during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, which averaged just under $33.3 million per year.
The ESPN writer also forecasted a potential sticking point in future contract negotiations: the opt-out.
Garland’s agent Rich Paul is notorious for demanding a final year opt-out for his clients, which he made a habit of during various LeBron James negotiations.
Brian Windhorst on Darius Garland: ‘I think you definitely pay him a max contract this summer’ https://t.co/WrP6YzDyIM
— Cavaliers Nation (@WeAreCavsNation) May 5, 2022
In essence, the opt-out has the effect of shortening a player’s obligations to a team, increasing the power and leverage a player has to negotiate down the line.
Windhorst argued the Cavs should move heaven and earth to make sure there’s no opt-out in Garland’s next contract.
Windhorst heralded Garland, along with rookie Evan Mobley, as the most important things to happen to Cleveland basketball since LeBron James departed for Los Angeles in 2018.
Throughout the segment, Windhorst drew also regular comparisons to Trae Young.
Though, the comparisons weren’t exactly of equals, according to Windhorst.
And for good reason; Trae Young is an All-NBA player who provides a constant offensive jolt.
And when the two faced off in the last play-in game in April, it was clear who the stronger player was.
Hint: it was the one who packed his bags in quick succession after a rough Heat series.
Windhorst hopes that Garland can reach that level, but is unsure if the Vanderbilt product has that ceiling.
It bears reminding that Garland ostensibly played without a backup and was forced to log heavy minutes (nearly 36) on a nightly basis.
The To-Do List
The ESPN Cleveland hosts asked Windhorst the question on most peoples’ minds: what does the next leap look like for Garland?
In other words, if he’s not on the Trae Young-Ja Morant level yet, what can he do to get there?
Windhorst provided two areas of improvement: consistency and defensive competency:
“More consistency . . . when you get down to the brass tacks, can he get you a basket when you really, really need it. . . . Can he do it?”
Having Garland contributing more to the defensive end would be a nice addition, but his weaknesses (at least this season) were masked by the relative defensive brilliance of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.
In keeping with the Trae Young comparisons, Windhorst noted that the Hawks guard is an “abhorrent” defender, but makes up for it in other ways, like a consistent court presence.
#Cavs Darius Garland has informed his representatives that he wishes to take less than a max contract extension this offseason in hopes of retaining both Collin Sexton and Caris LeVert, and bring back Ricky Rubio.
— Tim Larson (@TimLarsonSports) May 6, 2022
Can Garland make a leap next season?
It’s possible with everyone healthy and Garland’s supporting cast a little more filled out, he can develop into that Trae Young-esque player Windhorst hopes.
If its true he is willing to take less so they sign Sexton and others I think they should jump on it. If DG gets hurt they won’t get stuck with an albatross they cannot move and it is better for the flexibility of the roster to build a contender. After they are contending he can then seek a supermax like Steph. If not than so be it it’s not like millions vs a few millions more really matters to some of these guys