Sometimes it’s just fun to watch players ball out in the offseason.
No expectations, no fans, no jerseys.
Just a couple of players, a ball, and a net.
And Cavaliers guard Darius Garland is doing just that.
It doesn’t look that he’s lost a single step in the offseason, nor has he let that max contract he signed earlier in the summer go to his head.
No, Garland is staying sharp, pulling off some sweet moves back in a familiar gym.
It looks like Garland was back at his old stomping grounds at Vanderbilt, gliding smoothly on the Commodores’ practice court.
All of Garland’s skills were on full display, including a few slick passes and a shot put up around half court:
Darius Garland is so smooth. 🔥🔥
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) August 15, 2022
The shooting isn’t a surprise.
Last season, Garland exploded for 21.7 points per game on 38% from three and 46% from the field.
His playmaking also took a major leap last season, as he averaged a career-high 8.6 assists last season.
That figure was good enough for sixth in the league, just behind Luka Doncic’s fifth-place 8.7 helps a night.
Further, Garland did a lot more good than he did bad last season, if his 19.0 PER means anything.
But Garland likely isn’t settling there.
By hitting the gym, Garland has shown that he’s ready to continue growing, ascending to the top of the league’s floor generals.
And fans were loving Garland’s offseason work:
— 𝔰𝔠 ‼️ (@RatioByDG) August 15, 2022
Most underrated player in the league
— Nas® (@1silver_soul) August 15, 2022
— Nick (@Nw22____) August 15, 2022
Top 3 PG in the league this season
— Ⱡ₳₦₵Ɇ ₮ł₥Ɇ (0-0) (@MOBLEY__ERA) August 15, 2022
There's certain players that come along and have nothing to do with my team and I genuinely enjoy watching them hoop. Garland is one of those dudes.
— Generally Dubious (@DarkhorsePrey) August 15, 2022
Garland is better than Donovan Mitchell.
— 🔥RAEG🔥 (@RaeG_40) August 15, 2022
MVP LEAP NEXT SEASON
— Lds831 (@lds831) August 15, 2022
Cavs really gonna have a breakout year.
— Luka Donut (@Luka_Donut) August 15, 2022
Any expectations Cleveland brings into next season will ride on the collective play of Garland and fellow stars Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.
In essence, the Cavs are taking an old school approach to building the roster.
Rather than surrounding one big man or defensive interior presence with a cadre of shooters, the Cavs are doing the opposite.
They’ve paired a dymanic guard in Garland with two big men, though Mobley’s still is enough that he can double as a forward when he shares the court with Allen.
The hope is one of the Cavs’ other recent lottery picks take a leap next season, namely Isaac Okoro.
Ditto for Collin Sexton, should the current restricted free agent return.
Big Move Coming?
As good as the Cavaliers were last season, there’s still significant room to grow.
For starters, the team is looking for it’s first non-LeBron playoff appearance since the late ’90s.
But statistically, Cleveland should look to improve in some key areas.
First, the Cavs need to improve on their 20th-best 111.9 offensive rating.
A full season of Collin Sexton might help in that regard.
He’s an offensive dynamo, capable of scoring 25+ points any given night.
His defense leaves a lot to be desired, but with Mobley and Allen anchoring the paint, the team can afford Sexton’s lackluster abilities.
The Cavs could also stand to pick up the pace of their play, which was 26th in the league last season.
The pace makes sense, considering the two big men that Cleveland plays with, in addition to Lauri Markkanen.
But other, lighter, smaller teams will run circles around the Cavs.
And it’s significantly harder to speed up play than for opponents to slow it down.
Look for the Cavs to take steps in both directions next season.