In a move that was widely expected, the Cleveland Cavaliers locked down their franchise guy for the foreseeable future with a new rookie max contract extension over the weekend. The Cavs and Darius Garland were able to strike a five-year, $193 million contract extension agreement, which could end up being $231 million, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
This isn’t surprising since Garland had a breakout season in which he averaged 21.6 ppg, 8.6 apg and 1.3 steals, 46.2 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three while shooting was the main catalyst that took the Cavs to a 44-38 record and made his first All-Star appearance. Garland’s breakout year might come as a surprise to some, but this is the type of player the Cavs envisioned when they drafted him.
Go back to 2019 when the Cavaliers were in a very different situation than they are today. At the start of this draft, the Cavs were just a year away from losing LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers via free agency in the summer of 2018. Unlike Paul George, who left for LA, Russell Westbrook for the Houston Rockets, James Harden for the Brooklyn Nets, where in most cases these teams received a return, the Cavs lost LeBron James for nothing.
After leaving the Cavs much like he did in 2010, LeBron brought back most of the veterans and tried to be competitive, but after realizing that wouldn’t be the case, the Cavs traded most of them and began a full rebuild.
Whenever a team loses a Superstar for nothing, you’re essentially starting from scratch and it takes time. With that, the Cavaliers hit rock bottom and had one of the worst seasons in franchise history with a 19-63 record. The Cavs were tied with two other teams that year to finish as the No. This year and prior to the lottery draw, the grand prize was Zion Williamson, considered a generational talent, while Ja Morant/RJ Barrett were 2 and 3 respectively. The Cavs had a bad lottery night, falling to five, effectively putting them out of reach for these guys.
After the Lakers acquired Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans struck a deal with the Atlanta Hawks (and eventually selected DeAndre Hunter), Darius Garland fell into the Cavs’ folds. Garland only played in 5 games due to a torn meniscus, but those 5 games saw elite shooting, shot generation, cunning, cunning and some of the playmaking. Garland had a lot of advantages, but in many ways he was known as an unknown because he only played in 5 games.
The Cavs, in the early stages of a centerpiece-less rebuild, decided, a year after taking Collin Sexton, to step up the vote and take Garland. Garland on the upside was a top 3 prospect in the draft. Mike Schmitz, now with the Portland Trail Blazers but at the time with ESPN, thought he was a four-man draft and compared some of his game to Damian Lillard.
Looking back on the first full offseason that was at such an early stage of a rebuild is the most important thing.