Darius Garland – Guard – Vanderbilt – 6’3 173 Pounds
After getting injured early into the 2018/2019 season with Vanderbilt, Darius Garland has been an unknown to many casual observers of the upcoming talent in this year’s NBA Draft. Whilst other guards like Ja Morant and Coby White were able to showcase their talent and jump up draft boards with each game they played, Garland had to watch from the sideline as he rehabilitated a knee injury that he picked up in November against Kent State.
As the draft process has progressed, Garland’s stock has picked up as people start to take notice of his exciting skill-set, and see what makes him one of the most exciting players in this class.
Garland is a player able to play at a fast pace, which is becoming more and more vital for point guards in this league. His ability to play fast is matched by his potential to make good decisions in traffic and determine effectively how to end a possession – whether that be with him taking a shot off the dribble, or dishing the ball off to someone else to take a shot or make the extra pass.
His ability to shot off the dribble is, in itself, also a big plus in his game (a skill shared by many of the guards in this draft.) Garland has the ability to shoot the ball in any circumstance, whether that be off the dribble or a catch and shoot. He always showed good form with a clean release that looks to project well to the professional game, despite it being a lower than ideal release it should survive due to Garland’s ability to create space and release the ball quickly.
Despite being described as a ‘score-first guard’ Garland has shown a great ability to pass the ball, with some flashes of tremendous court vision to dish some great cross court and swing passes, which would justify him being a dominant ball handler at the next level with the ability to help others score. Combine all of these skills, and Garland has a real chance to make an impact early with an ability to play effective in transition as well as developing to pick apart half court defenses.
Garland’s struggles on defense are clear, with his lack of size, length and an often reckless style, his ability to play early could be harmed by this and may see him struggle early. The hope would be for him to go somewhere that isn’t immediately contending and be able to get some defensive reps and afford to live with mistakes.
As an athletic guard, you would like him to show a better ability to play under the rim, attack, and get to the line more. This is a key flaw that he carries when comparing him with the players many say he is similar too e.g. a Kyrie Irving type.
Another worry you would have with Garland is in reference to the injury he suffered this season, which as stated earlier was what kept him out for most of the campaign. Whilst a meniscus tear is a fairly minor injury, it is never ideal to have a player of his mold suffer knee problems so early in his career.
It is unclear where Garland will be going in this year’s draft with no team having been outwardly reported to be in love with the player. However, in a top heavy draft with a lot of players with defined ceilings looking in position to go in the early part of the lottery, don’t be shocked if someone takes a flyer on the unknown early.