Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 75 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This edition focuses on Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland.
Darius Garland’s college career was truncated, both when compared to other 2019 NBA Draft hopefuls and in general. The talented point guard from Vanderbilt appeared in only five games (for 139 total minutes) before a knee injury sidelined him and, as a result, there is a stark lack of high-end tape on Garland. However, he was a prominent fixture at the highest levels of high school basketball — Garland was the consensus No. 14 overall prospect in the 2018 class — and that exposure, combined with what he was able to do on the floor in Nashville, illuminates a (very) likely top-10 perch in the upcoming draft.
Garland’s signature appeal comes with his offense and, in particular, his shooting. In his limited college sample, Garland converted 11 of 23 three-point attempts and, in general, he is seen as a potentially elite shooter at the point guard position. Perhaps his biggest strength is his pull-up game, with the range to stretch NBA defenses and the shot versatility to deliver both off the bounce and off the catch.
At this size (6’3 with a 6’5 wingspan), Garland is far more likely to operate in an on-ball fashion but he does bring utility as an off-ball option, particularly in the event that he is paired with a primary wing creator. It remains to be seen as to just how dominant Garland’s shooting will be against NBA competition and in a larger sample but, at the very least, any team investing a lottery pick in Garland would be banking on his shot creation.
As a ball handler, Garland is efficient and smooth. He knows how to create space and can operate effectively in the pick-and-roll. In terms of polish in a present-day sense, Garland isn’t elite but, with more exposure, his pick-and-roll savvy could starkly improve and become a full-fledged strength.
If there is a question about Garland’s offensive game, it comes with his passing. Because he is relatively limited in size and overall athleticism, Garland will need to develop ways to get others involved and, at present, he isn’t a high-end passer. His passing is not necessarily a weakness in that he finds the right reads on a regular basis but, in a contemporary comparison, Garland certainly isn’t on the level of Trae Young or Ja Morant in terms of vision and recognition.
In addition to the whispers about his passing, Garland also faces questions about his finishing acumen at the NBA level. He may be solid (or better) in that area but, in the same breath, Garland isn’t particularly explosive and will be heavily reliant on craft and touch, both near the rim and in floater range.
Defensively, Garland is also a bit of a mixed bag. He has a stellar reputation for competitiveness and clearly reads the game well from an IQ perspective. However, his defensive impact was minimal in his brief college sample and there isn’t much in the way of upside with his athletic profile. Garland does bring good hands and relative quickness, but he must add strength and bulk when transitioning to the NBA and his rookie season could be something of an adventure.
For the most part, point guard prospects struggle upon arrival and Garland won’t be able to bank on the full season of college basketball that most of his contemporaries can draw from as they arrive in the league. As a result, it might take him a while to make up the ground and, simply put, it would be a mild surprise if Garland was immediately able to translate as an effective overall player.
On one hand, Garland brings a marketable skill to the table in that off-the-dribble shooting and long-distance range can bend opposing defenses in a way that few other traits can. As a result, his upside as an offensive player is tantalizing, particularly if the ball goes in the basket at a high level. On the flip side, Garland’s weaknesses could be magnified against better competition and, if his shooting fails to translate at a near-elite level, it might be difficult to justify a top-tier draft investment.
For the Atlanta Hawks, Garland largely acts as a player that might push one of the wings/forwards down on the board. With Young on board, the Hawks plainly cannot consider Garland with a lottery pick and he pretty clearly won’t be available after that. Still, Garland earns a top-10 overall mark in this class for a reason and he will be an interesting player to monitor in the coming days, months and years.