Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Darius Garland appears to be staking his claim as the starting point guard with his improved assist numbers.
Darius Garland is leading the Cleveland Cavaliers in assists per game this season (3.6). Garland has improved those numbers through 11 games in January (5.7). This recent uptick in assists seems to be a more accurate representation of his passing abilities.
The Cavs are one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to assists. Cleveland ranks 28th overall with 21.4 per game. Cleveland has improved in January to 24th overall with 21.9 per game. Still not great, but there is a slight increase over their season total. Darius Garland is accounting for over one quarter of the teams total assist numbers. Garland appears comfortable running the Cavs offense and having the offense go through him seems to be working when it comes to getting everyone involved, even though wins are still hard to come by.
The Darius Garland-Collin Sexton dynamic
When the Cavaliers drafted Darius Garland there was some questions in regards to his fit on the team. Cleveland selected Collin Sexton the year before and looked to be a score first type of guard that the team could build around. The only knock against him is that he is not a great passer and lacks vision on the court. Those concerns still exist, but that’s fine. Collin Sexton does not need to be the Cavaliers point guard, because that role can belong to Darius Garland.
Collin Sexton is still incredibly young (so is Garland), but appears to be more of a shooter than passer. There is not a problem with this. At some point in time the Cavaliers will need someone to take shots and score points. Kevin Love is not going to be here forever and the effectiveness of Cedi Osman can be questionable at times.
If Cleveland opts to go with Sexton as a primary scorer in the near future it is not the worst idea. Sexton will just have to work on his shooting efficiency to coincide with this move since he is still a bit of a volume shooter through the first season and a half of his career. There is definitely a lot of time for his shooting efficiency to improve, Sexton is incredibly young and was put in a situation that saw him play with a revolving door of teammates as a rookie. There appears to be another revolving door beginning to manifest itself as the Cavs are signing and waiving players to 10-day contracts quite frequently.
The comparison to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum
There was a common comparison many made for the duo of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. That comparison was of the Portland Trailblazers duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Lillard and McCollum are both better in the passing department and scoring department. Lillard averages more assists per game than Garland and Sexton combined and McCollum also edges out Garland in the assist department by 0.1 per game. They are also 29 and 28 years old while Garland and Sexton are 20 and 21 years old. There is plenty of room and time for growth for the Cavs duo.
Now this not saying that Darius Garland and Collin Sexton will turn into Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Just that Portland is the blueprint for the Cavs to follow. Both Garland and Sexton will have to work on their shooting abilities, but it is worth noting that the first year the Lillard and McCollum started Portland they were 25 and 24 respectively. That is four years worth of development for the Cavs young guards have ahead of them.
It’s going to be about patience with Darius Garland and Collin Sexton
Cavs fans may have been a bit spoiled with a couple of their high profile rookies. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving come to mind. Both were superstars and grew into those roles fairly quickly. Garland and Sexton are going to take bit more time to develop. It is not about not being at the level of James and Irving now, it is about whether they can reach that level five to six years from now. That is about the correct timeframe for the Cavaliers to be completive again. Cleveland still has to figure out what they are doing with some of their veteran players and add younger players into the mix. Kevin Porter Jr. could be an integral part of their future along with Garland and Sexton. Finding the right pieces to go along with what they believe to be building blocks will take a few years, but it will be putting the team together the right way.