Darius Garland (Rank 9, Tier 3)
6’3/6’5 Wingspan/175 pounds/19.4 years/FR
Darius Garland tore his left meniscus five games into his freshman season. That was unfortunate since he was on a roll offensively through four games. It’s frustrating to grade him with the lack of game tape. At times I think he’s a top five talent due to his shooting skills but other times I question his defense and wonder what role will he have on a championship caliber team. He’s listed as 6’3 with a 6’5 wingspan and weighs in at 175 pounds. A meniscus tear isn’t an athleticism altering injury but if Garland’s frame can’t mange NBA punishment that’s a long term problem. Just like with most smaller stature players, Garland will need to add strength and bulk up. Since he’s super agile and fast with solid quick twitch reactions he will need to be careful with paint drives and laying out his body on finishes. Smaller players bodies tend to break down fast in the NBA and hopefully whoever drafts Garland will properly monitor his conditioning.
The main reason why he’s ranked number nine on my big board even though he’s only played four games has to deal with his shooting. Unlike Ja Morant and Coby White, Garland has a more capable translatable shot. His mechanics are the most natural out of the three guards; nice quick motion, power comes from the lower body and hips, loads up off his toes, set point has variances but seems high enough and solid touch. He shot 47.8% from three and 1.441 points per possession on all jump shots which ranked 99th percentile albeit on a small sample size. He was deadly off the dribble shooting 56.2% on his two point jumpers. He can step back off either foot, sharp pull up, side step and pull back with nimble shake to his rhythm. He can use change-of-pace dribble moves to influence defenders habits and dictate which angle to exploit. His abrupt stop-and-go movements off the bounce and combo dribble drives moves help create separation for himself. He also can use his shooting gravity off-ball, cut off screen and make movement three pointers. That’s something I want to see more of in the NBA.
Entering the paint is one of Garland’s pluses but his finishing ability needs some improving. He isn’t terrible around the rim sporting a 60% field goal percentage but the physical nature of the middle modifies his timing and power around the rim. It felt like he would short arm some lay in’s and mostly jump off two feet around the hoop not trusting his body control on one legged leaps. I also think he’s a better playmaker than he gets credit for. He had a 13 assist to 15 turnover ratio and sported .647 points per possession on passes out of the pick-and-roll which ranked 9th percentile. He clearly looks for his shot first, has tunnel vision and can’t identify the simple pass in a timely fashion. The numbers don’t support his playmaking ability and the tape doesn’t either but in spurts I’ve seen good creation. A lot of that has to deal with keeping his head up, trusting his teammates and not over dribbling. Sometimes he will pick up his dribble too early if he sees a second man come his way. Continuing his dribble and prolonging the play will also help in terms of playmaking.
His defense is somewhat concerning. Obviously his frame doesn’t do him any favors, his on-ball defense waivers even though he has lateral quickness and his team defense is still a question mark. I sometimes wonder how much of a difference there is between Garland and Carsen Edwards due to the fact they have similar builds and offensive styles. Ja Morant is an elite play maker and Coby White is 6’5 with some play making ability. On the other hand if Garland can’t playmake at the next level why is he ranked so much higher than Carsen Edwards who he compares well with? That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with and I always fall back to dribbling ability and lateral movement. I also can’t get the 2018 NBA combine scrimmages out of my head when it comes to Carsen Edwards. He didn’t play well in a simulated NBA environment and became a motive for him to return for his junior season. I trust Garland to be that much better of a shooter, scorer than Edwards as well. Still it’s a valid question and part of my concern with Garland’s value.
* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math *