Should trading Darius Garland be a realistic option for the Cleveland Cavaliers?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are among the top teams in the NBA and are looking to compete for an NBA championship, but they’re a team that has struggled this year for a variety of reasons, mostly their defensive effort and living and dying by three-pointers. This has led many to wonder if this team is good enough as constructed to compete.
A huge trade may make them better, but the team seems pretty content to not make any major moves, besides maybe flipping Caris LeVert, but would that be enough to get the Cavs over the top? What about trading someone like Darius Garland?
Now, that may seem blasphemous to suggest trading Garland, but he’s the fourth most important player on the roster right now behind Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley. Now, he may not be the fourth-best player but Allen and Mitchell are clearly the two best on each side of the court, while Mobley has an infinitely higher ceiling than Garland.
So if you’re going to do a massive trade, it’d be Garland. Now, that may seem shocking and an impossible idea to consider, but just consider this; The Atlanta Hawks are apparently open to exploring Trae Young, a rather shocking situation in itself.
Will they trade him? Yeah, eventually, that just seems to be how the NBA is these days. If the Utah Jazz could trade Mitchell, then why not trade Young if things shake out that way? The Hawks trading Young seemed unlikely two years ago but anything can happen in the NBA. That’s why it’s not out of the realm of possibility to trade Garland.
The Cleveland Cavaliers would not trade Darius Garland for draft picks
Now, why would you want to trade Garland? To improve the roster is the easy explanation, but the deeper explanation is that this Cavs’ perimeter defense may never be good as long as Garland and Mitchell share the court together. While both men are playing better on defense than they were in the 2021-2022 season, they’re still not great at it. Garland has a +0.8 RAPTOR score for defense, but his defensive box plus-minus is -0.8.
Mitchell’s isn’t better, with a RAPTOR score of -0.6 (up from -2.7 in ’21-’22), but has a DBPM of +0.7. So depending on what advanced metric you think is more accurate will tell you which player is better defensively.
The fact we don’t know which player is better on defense, however, is part of the issue, because they’ve both been bad at times this year. The team needs to bolster the perimeter and just getting a guy who can play better defense at small forward may not solve the issues.
So while I’m not advocating for trading Garland, we can’t deny that a huge trade involving him could in fact improve the team. So if a massive trade materializes, and you can land someone like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or even a Jimmy Butler type, would you really balk at the trade if all you really had to give up was Garland?
Now, I’m not saying I want to trade Garland, I’m just saying that if a trade opportunity fell into the Cavs’ laps that would improve the perimeter defense, while not losing anything on offense, shouldn’t the team keep an open mind and consider trading Garland?