Cleveland Cavaliers: What Is Wrong With Darius Garland?

Cleveland Cavaliers: What Is Wrong With Darius Garland?

Drew Thirion
3 months ago
2 min read
Cleveland Cavaliers' Darius Garand drives to the hoop on Sacramento Kings Keegan Murray

Since Darius Garland’s phenomenal return from injury against the Celtics (29 points & 12 assists), it feels like something has been off for the All-Star point guard. 

He’s only been shooting 36% from the field and posted a +/- of -2 over that same span. Not only that, he’s been a liability on the defensive end, constantly getting beat off the dribble and showing up late on contests. 

The Cavs season average defensive rating currently sits at 107, but spikes up to 113 with Garland on the floor.

Something isn’t working.

This blog isn’t here to bash Darius Garland, but he hasn’t looked the same since the eye injury. He doesn’t have that same "shiftiness" to him that is usually unguardable. Players have done a great job keeping him in front of them and forcing him into tough, contested looks like he was forced to take last night.

What's The Fix?

The easy answer is time. Garland was the Cavs lone ball handler for most of the 2021-22 season. This year, the Cavs have thrown out a starting lineup with three guys who need the ball in their hands. It feels like Garland has struggled the most in the lineup adjusting to this change. 

My current fix would be to move Caris LeVert to the bench, and actually let the subs get some real minutes. JB Bickerstaff has been reluctant to use the bench guys this year, and it doesn’t make much sense. 

Cleveland is currently 27th in the NBA for bench minutes played per game, while Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, and Dean Wade all have true shooting percentages over 60%. They have three players who have elite efficiencies on their bench. Also, they have exceptional +/- ratings, all sitting in the top-four on the Cavs for individual +/-. 

Unlike most Cavs fans on the internet, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen out of Caris LeVert, but he just doesn’t fit in the starting lineup. There’s not enough defense in the starting lineup, and there are not enough spot-up shooters. Either you can leave the starting unit the same and play the bench more, or mix up your lineups. 

These lineup changes won’t be a fix-all situation. Garland simply needs to improve this year. He’s in the 25th percentile for effective field-goal percentage this year, the 30th percentile for true shooting percentage, and his mixed teamwork rating is the highest of the three in the 36th percentile (still not great) due to his elite assist numbers. 

Shooters go through slumps, and hopefully, that’s the only issue for Garland. Players tend to struggle on the defensive side of the ball when shots aren’t falling, and I think that’s what we’re seeing here with Garland. 

Give this team time to gel, and don’t hit the panic button; however, let’s quit losing to teams like the Kings. If you’re going to have me stay up past midnight, I don’t want to get embarrassed by Sacramento. 

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