Darius Garland on confidence: "It's at an all-time high"

CLEVELAND, OH — A few months ago Darius Garland was a wide-eyed 20-year-old, adjusting to life in the NBA and hoping to fit in with his new teammates.

The Cavaliers drafted him with the fifth overall pick last June because they believed he could develop into a star. Garland didn’t get off to the start he wanted with the Cavs. He missed all of summer league and most of training camp due to injury after playing just five games as a freshman at Vanderbilt. 

The lack of playing time kept him from having early success in the NBA. He made 33 percent of his shots and 25 percent of his 3-point attempts in his first 10 games with the Cavs. The marksman was struggling with NBA length and wasn’t making shots that he had made his entire life. 

The Cavaliers stayed patient with the rookie. Instead of taking him out of the starting lineup or panicking because of his shooting struggles, they remained confident in him. That patience is starting to pay off.

He's in much better shape now than he was in September and it's translating to success on the court.

Garland had one of his most complete games of the season in Thursday night’s loss to the Hornets. He finished with 14 points, five rebounds, a career-high eight assists and only one turnover.

“You got to put young players out there,” head coach John Beilein said on Thursday night. “They don’t learn in practice, they learn in games.”

The Cavs outscored the Hornets by 17 points when Garland was on the court. He made three 3-pointers and gave the home crowd a glimpse of what the future could look like at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Where is his confidence following another stellar performance?

“It’s at an all-time high right now,” Garland said. “I think I’ve been playing well.”

The numbers have steadily imroved throughout the season. He shot 43.4 percent from the field in the month of December and averaged 12.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists-per-game.

Garland was arguably the Cavs’ best player on Thursday night against the Hornets. He dazzled the home crowd with alley-oop passes and nearly changed the game with a breakaway steal and lay-up that would’ve given the Cavaliers the lead. The basket was waived off because officials determined that Garland was fouled before the shot.

 “The game is definitely slowing down for me,” he said. “Pick-and-roll reads are getting easier. A lot of people are starting to go over on screens now, so the decision is starting to be a lot easier.”

Vet move from the rook!Darius Garland fakes then dishes out a dime to John Henson for the ally-oop!#BeTheFight pic.twitter.com/lEqXoAXPLD

— FOX Sports Cleveland (@FOXSportsCLE) January 3, 2020

Garland’s 3-point shooting has a lot to do with defenders sticking with him during pick-and-rolls. He’s made at least three 3-pointers in eight games this season. Garland also made a career-high five 3-pointers against Dallas and Milwaukee in late November.

The Cavs’ rebuild is going to take time. There will be plenty of growing pains — especially for a player like Garland who came in with high expectations. The key to the rebuild is growth and the young guard continues to grow for an organization that needs him to succeed.