In his third season in the National Basketball Association, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland blossomed and became the real deal.
He averaged 21.7 points while shooting a solid 46.2 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from 3-point range while also dishing out 8.6 assists per game.
That production sent him to the All-Star game for the first time, and it was fitting that it was held in Cleveland, as it gave fans from The Land an opportunity to shower him with love.
But there still appears to be lots of room for improvement, and the Cavs still haven’t made it back to the playoffs since LeBron James packed his bags and left town again.
What would be a reasonable set of expectations for Darius Garland in the 2022-23 season?
Will they be enough to get Cleveland to the postseason?
Garland Showed Lots Of Improvement
In 2021, which was Garland’s second season, he put up 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per game, which were solid numbers.
He not only improved in terms of basic counting stats but also in terms of efficiency.
Garland’s 2-point shooting percentage sprouted from 47.9 in 2021 to 51.2 this season, and it wasn’t just because he has gotten better at finishing at or near the rim.
Yes, he did improve his percentage from three feet and in from 58.6 to 60.7.
But his mid-range efficiency has also gotten markedly better.
In 2021, Garland shot 39.3 percent from 10-16 feet and 35.0 percent from 16 feet out to the 3-point line.
But this season, those marks improved to 49.7 percent and 45.6 percent, respectively.
It has been said that the mid-range game is a lost art in the NBA today, especially with the proliferation of advanced analytics, which claim that mid-range shots are very inefficient and should be avoided like the plague.
But since defenses focus on defending the rim and the 3-point shot, sometimes the mid-range shot will be readily available, and Garland can feast on it as long as he maintains his strong efficiency from that distance.
What To Look For From Garland In 2023
Given that Evan Mobley is expected to improve and take on a bigger role offensively, perhaps it is not feasible for Garland to see another significant jump in his scoring average like the one he had this year.
That would especially be true if the Cavs give Collin Sexton a new contract to stay in town.
Instead, the keys could be maintaining, if not improving his efficiency, and especially boosting his assist average.
If Mobley takes the step forward many expect him to take, expect more easy lobs from Garland and passes into his sweet spots down low to get him easy scores.
Darius Garland's live dribble passing is dazzling (awesome stunt for the steal by Mobley) pic.twitter.com/5eMSuE6uNd
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) December 6, 2021
In addition, one of the Cavs’ big weaknesses at the time is 3-point shooting, and it appears to be a big priority for president of basketball operations Koby Altman this summer.
If Cleveland manages to do significantly better than 15th in 3-point shooting percentage, which is where it ranked this season, Garland could flirt with averaging double digits in assists.
DG adds 27 points to his career-best passing display to power Cleveland 🔥 pic.twitter.com/jVcDq5YBS7
— NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2022
All that, combined with big offensive performances from him in big games, such as the one he had in the play-in tournament versus the Brooklyn Nets, could take the Cavs back to the playoffs next spring.