Darius Garland is proving his importance to the Cavaliers and building a Most Improved case

Darius Garland is enjoying the breakout in 2021-22. Photo courtesy of Cavaliers Nation.

If you take a look at Darius Garland’s stats for 2021, you can tell that he turned out to be as good as advertised. Even if he barely played in college and there are some doubts about his durability, it’s safe to say he has stellar potential.

The Cleveland Cavaliers youth are counting on Garland this season. They need him and Evan Mobley to become the new tandem of the future, as Kevin Love has barely been able to play and it will take years before they compete again.

Darius Garland stats 2021

The Cavs’ youth core was rather impressive to start the season, and most of that should be credited to Garland’s improved play on both ends of the floor. While Mobley appears to have a higher ceiling, it has been Garland who has led the way so far.

However, some people still have questions regarding Garland’s potential and suitability for the team. For that reason, today we will prove why he is indeed one of the best young guards in the NBA and the most important player in Cleveland right now.

Darius Garland’s defense isn’t that bad

Besides his inexperience and toughness, Garland’s biggest match concern was his weak defense. However, Darius Garland’s defense has greatly improved from last year, both to the naked eye and according to the Stats Sheet.

Garland did a great job of deflecting passes, forcing turns, defeating the ball, and putting his hand on the ball; An average of 1.3 steals per game. It’s still a negative asset when it comes to plus-minus square (-1.2) but that number is much better than last year’s -1.8 or -2.8 he posted during the junior season.

Escalation without sexton

The Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly had many doubts regarding Garland’s ability to get along with Colin Sexton. Both players are in control of the ball but Garland is the superior playmaker, which is why Sexton has been the subject of multiple trade rumors throughout the off season.

Now that Young Bull is set to miss a significant portion of the season with a knee injury, Garland has embraced his role as the team’s #1 scoring choice and number one man. He looks a lot freer in the back without Sexton and his numbers are going up with the Cavs guys.

The Cavs are better than expected

Most analysts expected the Cavaliers to be near the bottom of the Eastern Conference this season as usual. However, they fought hard and played spoiler a few nights, and are currently sitting at a 9-10 record with tournament play as a real possibility.

Teams should be wary of being overconfident in facing the new-look Cavaliers, especially with Garland’s improved playmaking alongside Ricky Rubio. They are not ready to compete by any means, but they are much better than expected.

Garland for the best improved player?

Even if they get off to a strong start to the season, the Cavaliers are unlikely to make the playoffs. But even if they don’t make it into the rankings, Garland should rank near the top of the best-improved candidates with the way he plays so far.

Garland averages 18.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.7 three-pointers per game at 45/36/88 from the ground playing 34.8 minutes per night. Those numbers are career highs after last season’s averages of 17.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.9 three-pointers per game in 45/39/84 rebounds.

He will face some stiff competition for the prize. Miles Bridges, Dejaunt Murray, Tyler Hero and Ja Morant are leading the race, but he still has to be a part of that conversation, especially if his numbers continue to improve with Sexton out of the picture.

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