If the Cavaliers‘ day two of free agency was light on huge paydays, day three was the exact opposite.
On Saturday, the Cavaliers finally locked down an extension for Darius Garland.
The new contract is a five-year deal worth $193 million (with escalators that could make the contract worth $231 million).
The contract isn’t set to begin until next season when Kevin Love‘s $28.9 million comes off the books.
A Sigh Of Relief
Last season, Garland demonstrated that he’s more than capable of leading a playoff team.
He posted career-highs in just about every category, including points (21.7), assists (8.6), and effective field goal percentage (53.6%).
His player efficiency rating also jumped significantly; two years ago, he posted a below-average 14.2 PER.
And while all of those are nice (steller, even), the one stat that rose the most due to Garland’s play was perhaps the most obvious: wins.
The Cavaliers were pegged to be an early lottery team yet again, but by the All-Star break, obliterated Vegas‘ over-under totals for wins.
Needless to say, fans were thrilled by the contract announcement:
Congratulations to Darius Garland on netting the largest deal in franchise history. (5-year, $193 Million) the deal could be worth as much as $231 million. Insane. pic.twitter.com/0bERZE7dNl
— Mack Perry (@DevaronPerry) July 2, 2022
For everyone who thinks Darius Garland isn’t worth the $193,000,000
Watch this pic.twitter.com/BC3l5SeVwP
— Dean Wade enjoyer (@RagelessGamer) July 2, 2022
Darius Garland put up a bunch of career highs in 2022:
It’s paying off. pic.twitter.com/Hdt5q17n1I
— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 2, 2022
Darius Garland is getting his 5 year Max contract today! pic.twitter.com/xdKoeKbjWy
— Projectnba_ (@Projectnba1) June 30, 2022
Im old enough to remember when people in the media tried to say Darius Garland was the worst player in the league
— 500 🏎 (@Kameron_Hay) July 2, 2022
How it started vs. how it's going
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) July 2, 2022
Last year I said Darius Garland was not a basketball player you could build your team around
Happy to be so horribly wrong and happy Darius is in Cleveland https://t.co/LjGJ1q1ahE
— Sir Yacht🛥 (@SirYacht_) July 2, 2022
Worst to First
For some time, the Cavs have been haunted by one ghost.
James brought relevance to Cleveland basketball for many years, especially back in 2016 when he led the Cavs to their first NBA Championship in franchise history.
But as much as James is a hero in Cleveland, his absence has more often than not left the Cavaliers in the lurch.
Take, for instance, when he left for Miami back in 2010.
For the next four years, the Cavaliers were doomed, wandering aimlessly in the wilderness, looking for any shred of post-LeBron relevance.
They failed mightily, selecting at the top of the lottery three of the five times between 2010 and 2014.
But with Garland, at least one of the LeBron demons was slain: largest contract.
Garland is now the most expensive player in Cavaliers history, surpassing LeBron’s nearly $100 million deal back in 2016 and Kevin Love’s $120 million deal back in 2019.
It wasn’t always guaranteed that Garland would work out this way.
In the not-so-distant past, Garland’s stats supposedly supported that he was the worst player in the association.
Not the “worst guard” or “worst player under 24.”
The worst player in the entire league.
But hey, sometimes we’re just plain wrong.
And by the looks of things, Garland will be instrumental to Cleveland making their first LeBron-less playoffs since the late ’90s.
More to Come?
As mentioned, Garland’s deal gives the Cavs flexibility to get LeVert and Sexton contract extensions this offseason.
The former is still locked down for another year, but Sexton is currently a restricted free agent.
And now, almost through the first weekend of free agency, no teams have extended an offer sheet to the former Alabama guard.
Once upon a time, Sexton’s camp was looking for a deal north of $20 million, with the Cavs willing to pay around $18 million.
But it’s starting to look more like the Cavs can re-sign Sexton for half of Sexton’s initial asking price.
That leaves the Cavs in a perfect place to see what they have in Sexton, who is coming off an injury-shortened season and thus missed out on most of last year’s success.