As the Cleveland Cavaliers head into next season, it’s do-or-die time for the backcourt duo of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
The rope is getting thin for Darius Garland and Collin Sexton to drag themselves up and prove they can be the backcourt of the future. With a pivotal season approaching for the Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s now-or-never for this duo to rise to the occasion.
Sexton and Garland have been under heavy fire since they hit the floor together last year. Objectively speaking, the two combined to make the worst one-two punch in basketball as they ranked towards the absolute bottom of the league in just about every advanced metric.
This is for a few obvious reasons. Firstly, they stand as the second shortest backcourt in the NBA. Only Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet lack more size – but that pairing is able to overcome their lack of height by being fully engaged defensively. The same can’t be said for Sexton and Garland who were routinely abused by opponents.
The two ranked as the second-worst defensive duo in the entire NBA last season and don’t show any signs of improvement as the rest of the team is just as bad on this end of the floor. Until Cleveland adds more talent to surround Sexton and Garland – they are going to struggle on defense due to their lack of height and experience.
However, there is no excuse for their lack of playmaking. The Cleveland Cavaliers ranked 24th in assists despite playing two point guards in their starting lineup. Both Sexton and Garland need to begin creating plays at a higher rate if they want to hold a job in today’s NBA.
It’s clear that this duo has a ton of problems they might never be able to address. But, what do they do well together? There must be something that encouraged the Cavaliers to pair these two together in the first place, right?
When the Cavs selected Garland with the No. 5 pick in last year’s NBA Draft, they envisioned a fully loaded backcourt that could score in bunches akin to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Their offensive firepower would outweigh their deficiencies on defense and the two would take turns sharing the scoring load.
Sadly, that has only occurred in spurts thus far. Sexton has been the more consistent of the two, exploding for 24.2 points on 51.2 percent shooting in the final two months of the season. There is no doubt that Sexton is blossoming into one of the game’s brightest young scorers – but Garland has yet to show any of the potentials that made him a top-five pick.
This could largely be to his partnership with Sexton. The two share an overwhelming amount of touches and actually look better when playing without the other. It’s possible that the ball-dominant playstyles they both possess are hindering them from reaching their full potential.
The Cleveland Cavaliers need to optimize their use of Sexton and Garland
In order to break out of this cycle, one of them needs to embrace a playmaking role. Garland began to do this last year as he dished out over 5.0 assists per game following the New Year. It’s entirely possible that by focusing his attention on distributing the ball – the rest of Garland’s game will come to him naturally.
We saw glimpses of Garland’s elite shot-creating ability last year. He is incredibly shifty and creative when it comes to getting open looks. Garland can become a lethal offensive weapon if he learns how to pick-and-choose when to assert his dominance into games.
Playing two ball-dominant guards next to each other is feasible. Garland and Sexton simply need to build chemistry and find a rhythm together. There is still a chance this backcourt becomes an offensive powerhouse full of versatility and shot creation.
In fact, they looked significantly better in the final stretch of the season under new head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. They combined for efficient averages of 38.4 points and 8.9 assists as the Cavaliers went 6-6 during this time.
Yet, we can expect major changes to follow if these two finish another season among the league’s worst duos. The Cavaliers won’t continue to center their rebuild on Sexton and Garland if they can’t show any development. Watch for players like Kevin Porter Jr. or incoming rookies to begin taking the spotlight if Sexton and Garland don’t improve this year.