Darius Garland offers major stamp of approval on Cavs’ offseason

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Add Darius Garland to the list of those who are excited about what his Cleveland Cavaliers have been able to accomplish this offseason as they look to build on their first playoff appearance since 2018.

The Cavs maintained their momentum as an up-and-coming team by adding Max Strus, Georges Niang, Ty Jerome and Damian Jones while also re-signing Caris LeVert, all of which was encouraging news for Garland.

“I’m really excited,” Garland told Cleveland.com when asked about the team’s free-agency spending spree. “Got some floor spacers that can shoot the ball really well. Georges has a toughness and is going to bring that to the team. Max is a really good basketball player, shoots the ball well and comes off screens really well. Both play both sides, which Cleveland and Coach J.B. [Bickerstaff] loves. Damian Jones as well, bringing that athletic ability backing up J.A. (Jarrett Allen) and Evan (Mobley). Of course, I’ve gotta mention my Vanderbilt guy.”

Cleveland won 51 regular season games and got back to the playoffs, but its stay there was short as it was eliminated by the New York Knicks in five games. The Cavs’ offense was considered the primary reason for the disappointing result, so the organization took steps to improve by acquiring Strus from the Miami Heat and Niang from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Strus could be considered the marquee addition after the 27-year-old averaged 11.5 points per game during the regular season and helped Miami reach the NBA Finals, where it lost to the Denver Nuggets. The Cavs reportedly are figuring out whether the forward will be better used in the starting lineup or as an offensive boost off the bench.

Garland is coming off another successful season, having averaged 21.6 points and 7.8 assists per game in his first campaign with Donovan Mitchell as a teammate. Those numbers are encouraging for the 23-year-old in that they were almost identical to his numbers without Mitchell – 21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game in the 2021-22 season – showing that the two can be effective playing in the same backcourt.

With even more offensive threats now on the roster, Garland and the rest of the Cavs are heading into the 2023-24 season with a great deal of optimism that’s also shared by outside observers. One NBA executive praised how the Cavs are executing their plan for the future, and ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins said they have enough talent to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Just looking forward,” Garland said. “Just thinking about next year. Everybody is super excited about this team we have now.”

Cleveland recently won the NBA Summer League championship for the first time, showing it has promising young talent in the pipeline as well. Since there are also some big things expected from Mobley, Garland’s excitement about the future seems to be warranted.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.