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Know the Prospect: Darius Garland

Is Vanderbilt’s enigmatic guard all he’s cracked up to be?

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s draft class has proven to be short on undeniable star power. There’s really only whats-his-name and then a rather brillig (Ja) morass. Every player with some star potential has had cartoonish holes poked in their games over the course of the season. That wasn’t so for Darius Garland. Highly sought-after coming out of high school, he was ranked 16th overall in ESPN’s top 100 and joined fellow 2018 top-20 kiddo, Simi Shittu, at Vanderbilt. Despite suffering a left meniscus tear and having season-ending surgery after just five games, Garland’s prestige remains largely untouched.

In an effort to see if we could bring Garland up to speed with most other prospects, Shwinny and I went back in the war room to try and poke the requisite holes in his game. Previously we talked about UNC’s Coby White, and there’s more in the pipeline. So come on in and let’s talk about Luke Kornet’s favorite freshman.

Stingy: There’s no mistaking Garland is a special player. He has one of the most advanced dribble packages in the draft but doesn’t just babysit the ball. He gains separation by turning his body and masking his intentions, then quickly and deceptively screeching into the open space. It keeps defenders wobbly and allows Darius to size up shots before making decisions. From there, he has shown the range on his jumper to make defenses blitz and always need to keep someone within arm’s reach.

Garland comes with the small sample size red flag, and of course, knee surgery at such a young age. Does that make him more of a reach for you? Or does he still show up as a top-half-of-the-lottery kind of guy?

Shwinnypooh: I’m inherently biased against guys I don’t have tons of film on. I don’t see how Darius Garland went from 16th in his class out of high school to a fucking guarantee at four with the idiot-ass Lakers. It sure feels like he’s benefiting a ton from his individual skills popping on film, without an assessment of how those skills manifest within the team framework of a competitive game

I agree his handle and pull-up shooting are very legit, but even in the limited Zapruder film of him that exists I’ve seen little proof he leverages it to benefit his team. His reading of the game seems quite limited, and his passing is at a considerably lower standard than Ja Morant.

My other major issue with Garland is, while I do believe he’s excellent at separating east-west, his ability to go north-south and penetrate against a set defense looks suspect. I prefer Coby White’s overall scoring package among the point guards in this draft.

I just don’t quite get the hype to see him rise to four, even in this shitty draft class.

Stingy: It’s a shame that there isn’t much video to see at the college level, and no opponents of real note. Let’s be honest, if he isn’t giving work to the likes of the Winthrop Eagles and Liberty Flames, how can we take him this seriously? Conversely, if his performance against those teams has driven him up the ladder, then I have to wonder if not enough is being made of him putting up a forgettable line against the juggernauts at Alcorn State. Garland could be all sizzle, no steak.

When I look at his frame, I worry that he won’t ever be big enough to finish in traffic, and he definitely isn’t going over the top on anyone. I do like his footwork and connectedness on the defensive end. It will go a long way toward prolonged success. He stays up on his toes and sits down in his stance. I just can’t imagine him being rock-steady enough to wall up on bigger, more athletic guards.

Shwinnypooh: Yeah, his defense was surprisingly not bad. As you mentioned, there are physical limitations for him on that end, but generally speaking he seems aware and willing, and that’s more than half the battle. I’d say that in whatever I was able to see of him, my question marks around him defensively pale in comparison to Morant, who has really poor fundamentals, awareness and effort.

The thing is, again, I just don’t know about Garland’s offensive orchestration. He has two major ingredients to make it work, but does he have the feel to run the show? Can he balance getting his own with keeping everybody happy and well-fed? Is he going to be able to get to the rim and finish, and be smart enough to manipulate defenses to his whims and fancies in order to create the openings for himself and teammates that he wants?

I think that level of advanced feel is even more important for him, as I see his strengths coming to bear more in the half-court than in transition. In that way he is very different from Morant and Coby, who thrive more in the chaos of an uptempo, transition style. I guess, in that sense, if the Lakers want a point guard and don’t think Lonzo Ball is a good fit next to LeBron, it makes sense to roll the dice on Garland and his plus-plus shooting upside. I mean, if you’re in it to win it with LeBron, shooting is necessary.

The Knicks need shooting too, though. At every position. Maybe taking him at three isn’t totally insane? Would still feel like a reach to me, but I can see why that shooting prowess is appealing, especially with the premium importance assigned to it with the way the league is trending.

Stingy: Having him as your lead guard will dramatically shift the geometry for this crew. Also his dad played in the league for a while. That’s got to count for something. Darius’ godfather is probably Don Nelson or somebody cool like that. Also, I’m told apples don’t fall far from trees. Although they might get sweeter and more crispy with each generation.

Garland has signed on with Lebron James’ Rich Paul’s agency, Klutch Sports Group. There are definitely reasons to believe he’ll wind up in Los Angeles. Especially because Klutch has a long history of making things public and ugly when they don’t get what they want. From Eric Bledsoe forcing his way out of Phoenix to Anthony Davis trying to spring free from New Orleans. They also have a way of getting limited players extremely paid, such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Lest we forget Tristan Thompson, who is also tied to L.A.-based vapid worm and poisonous moron, Khloe Kardashian. LeBron has also stated his desire to add some impact scoring and playmaking at the guard spot. If Kyrie Irving doesn’t betray Boston by going to Los Angeles, it would seem all signs point to the young Commodore.

As for the Knicks, is Garland a perfect fit in New York? Possibly a high-visibility hostage to take in order to gobble up a king’s ransom in trade? Time will tell. The draft is less than two weeks away. Tune in next time when we take a trip to Michigan!