Darius Garland could be good but stats argue against him being great.
The Cavs have an assistant coach in Greg Buckner who believes in Darius Garland and his ability to be great. The coach joined the Cavs to be J.B. Bickerstaff’s number one on the bench and believed he saw Garland flash star potential. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reported on a conversation that Buckner had with Bickerstaff, where Buckner said Garland could be great.
I think he can be an All-Star. You don’t throw that out too many times, but there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do on offense. The talent is there. I think he’s going to be great. He’s going to be special. He’s one of those guys that can really take you far in the playoffs down the road.”
It should be noted that Fedor often writes glowing pieces about the team and its players, relying on subjective opinions to paint pictures. Facts are facts, and while Garland could be good, even possibly an All-Star down the line, but to be someone who can carry you in a playoff push?
Stats are facts.
Darius Garland could be very good, a nice piece to the puzzle. He’s just not the piece to the puzzle. Historically, the best point guards come into the league already producing. There’s a very telling stat called Value Over Replacement Player or VORP. This is a stat that combines all quantifiable data, how good a player is on both offense and defense and combined into a simple nugget of information.
It’s a strong stat and one that tells you very quickly how good someone actually is.
Garland’s rookie year saw him post a -1.7, which essentially means a street player could’ve produced better than Garland. Now, you’ll probably say “oh well he’s a rookie, what do you expect?!”
Well, the league’s best point guards over the years don’t debut with a negative VORP. Chris Paul? 5.1 as a rookie. Luka Doncic? 3.4. Damian Lillard? 1.8. Steph Curry? 2.0. Ben Simmons? 4.5. Kyrie Irving? 2.4. Russell Westbrook? 0.7. Rajon Rondo? 0.8. Magic Johnson? 4.8. Jason Kidd? 2.0. Heck, even former Cavs guard Andre Miller, 2.1, had a better showing.
This was just a sample size of 12 random point guards who were at one point considered to be “elite”. While Simmons may be a terrible scorer, he’s still very good everywhere else on the court, which is important to remember.
Now, you might be saying “but Chad, I see 11 names. Who’s the 12th?” Again, this was random. I thought of 12 players and looked them up. There was one name who had a negative VORP that ended up being a Hall of Famer. That player was Steve Nash.
Now before you start popping bubbly and decreeing “SEE!”, you should note their circumstances were not the same. Nash only played 10 minutes his rookie year in Phoenix, not 31 like Garland. He also got shipped off to Dallas to start year three and played two more years in Dallas as a role player. So he didn’t see the starting lineup frequently until his fifth year. Shockingly enough, that was the year his VORP was a 2.0.
It does say something though about Garland that needs to be stressed; this isn’t a sign that he won’t get better, but only a sign of how bad he actually is/was.
In order for him to get better, however, he has to exceed past expectations that no one else really had to. He has to improve more than any other point guard in recent memory in order to reach the “elite” status that Buckner believes he’s capable of hitting.
Garland could defy expectations, become a Hall of Famer and lead Cleveland to title town. It’s mathematically possible. What’s far more probable is that he continues to gradually improve and is eventually shipped off in a deal in three or four years.
But hey, it’s possible to be wrong on these kinds of things. So let’s be open to any possibility.