When the Cleveland Cavaliers took Darius Garland with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 National Basketball Association draft, they were hoping that he would become a star and steward the team through the post-LeBron James era.
After showing promise in his first two seasons, the Vanderbilt product started to put it together this season.
He averaged 21.7 points while shooting 38.3 percent from downtown and dishing out 8.6 assists per game, which sent him to the All-Star game for the first time, a contest that just happened to take place in Cleveland.
After he scored 34 points while nearly matching Kyrie Irving‘s overall production in the first game of the play-in tournament against the Brooklyn Nets, it became evident that Garland is the real deal.
My Favorite Personal Darius Garland Game this Season, on March 4th against the New Look James Harden 76ers, DG Put up:
Darius Garland has the Most Assists in a game for the 2021-22 Season🔥 pic.twitter.com/RPWchhvXLH
— 🧣 (@PrecisionSTFU) April 30, 2022
Next year will be the final season of his rookie contract, and it is looking likely that he will command a max salary on his next deal.
Should the Cavs give him that max deal this offseason?
Garland Can Only Get Better
One of the best attributes of the 6-foot-1 guard is his overall efficiency, which makes one wonder if he will continue to boost his scoring average in the years to come.
He shot a solid 46.2 percent from the field this year, as well as a strong 57.6 true shooting percentage.
— Antonio (Temporary Mavs Fan) (@deshaunwatsonnn) May 4, 2022
Not only is Garland an accurate shooter from the outside, but he has also improved his ability to finish at or near the rim.
He made 60.7 percent of his shots from three feet and in this season, which is much better than his dismal 46.8 percent rate from that distance as a rookie.
As a reference point, look at Irving, who, of course, played his first six seasons in Cleveland and has a similar build.
In his third season, the North Jersey native averaged 20.8 points a game while shooting a worse percentage from the field than Garland did this year (43.0).
From three feet and in that season, Irving made just 57.6 percent of his attempts.
In the coming years, he would improve on that percentage, getting into the mid-60s before reaching 70.2 percent in 2022.
No one is saying that Garland will ever become as great as Irving, who has averaged at least 26.9 points a game in each of the last three seasons, but the potential could be there, which would justify giving Garland a max deal.
The Cavs Need To Prevent Garland From Leaving
Although Garland hasn’t given any indication yet that he may do so, if the Cavs don’t sign him before next July, he could very well be very receptive to entertaining offers from other teams, which could mean trouble for Cleveland.
The Land is unfortunately not a hot destination for free agents, as it doesn’t offer what Los Angeles, the New York City area, Miami and to a lesser extent Chicago can boast.
If the Cavs are going to win another NBA championship in the not-too-distant future, they need to build through the draft, which means retaining most, if not all of their draft picks.
Evan Mobley, their super rookie, will also need to get paid within a couple of years, and if they let Garland bolt, perhaps Mobley would prefer playing somewhere else as a result.
Now is the time for Dan Gilbert to bolt down the foundation for what he hopes will be Cleveland’s next great team.