The Cleveland Cavaliers have secured Darius Garland for the long term, locking the player in for the next five years.
Garland has agreed to a rookie max contract that will see him earn $193 million over the course of the aforementioned period, per sources informing The Athletic. The deal is the richest in team history and could be worth up to as much as $231 million due to other factors.
The Cavs will be happy to get this out of the way as getting the player to agree to their terms this year means he will be going into next season with an extension, but the deal won’t be triggered until 2023/24 when the money will be reflecting in the team’s accounts.
This is quite a lot of money to commit but Garland deserves every penny. The guard made huge improvements last season, a campaign in which he averaged 21.7 points on 46.2 percent shooting from the field and 38.3 percent from downtown, as well as 8.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game.
The Cavs had an improved season too, nearly making the playoffs and reaching the Play-In round after doubling their win total from the previous season. Of course, this was mostly due to Garland’s effectiveness on the court. And it will be interesting to see how things go on the betting front given the sportsbook apps one can expect to see in Ohio when legalization takes shape next year.
The 22-year-old has also emerged as a leader in the locker room. Coach J.B Bickerstaff handed him the reins, given Cleveland’s intention to have him become the face of the franchise, and he did not disappoint.
A willing passer, Garland facilitated for those around him, with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley finding life easy at the rim considering the lobs they were able to enjoy, while Isaac Okoro and Lauri Markkanen benefitted from making cuts as he found them with ease.
He learned from veterans such as Ricky Rubio, whom he sometimes formed a formidable backcourt with, finding a balance between creating shots for himself and getting his teammates their own. Kevin Love served as another big influence.
The biggest leap, though, was in confidence. That was helped by his experience with the Select Team and the call-up to Team USA last summer that saw him surrounded by some of the best talents in the world.
Garland worked with assistant coach J.J. Outlaw and Kevin Love throughout the season in sessions dubbed “flight school,” in which they worked on the arc and lift of perimeter shots. Before games, he would warm up with Outlaw, shooting from different areas of the floor.
Garland and Outlaw have formed a relationship that the former says has impacted his game profoundly.
“He’s meant a lot to me,” he told The Athletic back in march. “I mean, he’s been through the downs when I first got here, and he’s been through the highs of this year. So he’s seen it all. He’s seen the growth and seen the process. He’s been in the growth and in the process. So just having him around, just having somebody like that, that trustworthy guy, it means a lot to me.
“I talk to him about everything. He’s like a big brother to me. I’m with him every day, so the bond is going to keep growing, keep getting better. And one thing I love about him is that he tells me when I’m wrong. He tells me I’m doing something wrong and when I’m having a bad night or something like that, just try to get me going, just lift me up a little bit. I love that about him; he’s always true.”
The player’s leap was clear. He became an All-Star last season and also took part in the skills challenge. It’s no wonder the Cavaliers have decided to cut him that much-deserved cheque; it’s a move they hope will pay high dividends in the future.
“All-time high,” the former Vanderbilt star said of his confidence. “The highest it’s ever been in my life, to be honest with you. All-Star night, it gave me even more confidence just being a part of that, just being named one of the top 24 guys to play basketball right now. Just being honored and that respect around the league from your peers, it means a lot to me. I’ve been working for that, and for it to come this early, it’s super cool.”
Things might have worked out very differently for Garland, who tore his meniscus after just five games in college. But he was drafted by Cleveland as the fifth overall in 2019 and has since developed into one of the most promising guards in the NBA.