The moment the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t get a top-3 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery was not only disappointing but in what many expected to be a three-player draft this year, it was a tough pill to take. As the draft got closer, that three-player draft talk seemed to simmer down a bit. While Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett were the obvious top-3 picks, other players did their best to take advantage of how wide open the rest of the draft was. Whether it was in workouts or team meetings, there was a number of prospects that did just that.
Darius Garland was one of those players, and now the point guard is a Cavalier. Cleveland selected the Vanderbilt point guard with the fifth-overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Thursday night.
The freshman came out of the gates strong, putting up 24 points, four assists, three rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in his first collegiate game. Unfortunately, his time at Vanderbilt came to a quick end after he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Kent State on November 23, 2018.
With that said, during his short stint in college, Garland averaged 16.2 points, 2.6 assists, and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 53.7% from the field and 47.8% from beyond the arc in 27.8 minutes per game during his five games with the Commodores.
Even in such a small sample size, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard made quite an impression. He continued to improve his draft stock after fully healing from his knee injury and working out for NBA teams prior to the draft, including the Cavs.
The Stepien’s Spencer Pearlman has made a very detailed scouting report on Garland. Fear The Sword’s Mike Zavagno has also done some much-needed research as well:
Projected #4 Pick: Darius Garland
-Starts with the compact jumper that he can get to off the bounce or the catch. Interplays well with his twitchy handle that plays off beat from most creators. Worry about his finishing/floater game. See little to like on D pic.twitter.com/GW4ExmaSx5
— Mike Zavagno (@MZavagno11) June 20, 2019
Along with those scouting reports, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman has also studied Garland’s game:
Garland’s appeal stems from his skill level, particularly as a shot creator and shooter. Before going down, he was 11-of-23 from three (6-of-9 on catch-and-shoot) and 13-of-23 on pull-ups. Garland shows the ability to separate into step-backs and knock down dribble jumpers from deep, and with notable fluidity, rhythm and range, he’s a threat to spot up off the ball as well. A nifty ball-handler, Garland can change directions on the dime, fueling playmaking potential as a guard who can break down defenses.
Garland finished with 15 turnovers to 13 assists, raising questions about his floor game and decision-making for a lead guard. He may never be a top set-up man. He’s shoot-first and prefers to settle for tough jumpers, a likely result of his lack of explosiveness around the basket. Garland struggles to execute passes, floaters and layups in traffic.
Garland won’t add any value on defense, where he has trouble with physicality and opposing guards play through him too easily. He may spend time at the off-guard slot, but he lacks the size and wingspan to match up with wings. Garland doesn’t have to be a liability if he can toughen up, but there isn’t any defensive upside to be exciting about.
While most one-and-done freshmen need to become reliable shooters, Garland’s jumper is NBA-ready. He’ll immediately provide shot-making firepower and extra floor space. His two-point percentage will suffer early, based on his shot selection and physical limitations. And he won’t register a strong assist-to-turnover ratio right away. In 2019-20, he’ll be valued most for his streaky scoring and shooting, plus some playmaking ability as a pick-and-roll ball-handler.
Projected role: Quality starter
From AAU, Eurocamp and the Nike Hoop Summit to Vanderbilt, Garland has been a standout. And with enough size and quickness and a tremendous skill level, he figures to be a starting NBA point guard. The question when projecting his ceiling centers around his facilitating and how it can affect his value. Can he mirror Damian Lillard’s success to become an All-Star point guard without ever averaging 7.0 assists? Lillard is Garland’s comparison in terms of style, but it’s more likely he settles into the league as a poor man’s version, which should still be good enough to warrant a quality-starter label.