#5 on the PB Big Board
G – Vanderbilt
Freshman, 6’2, 175 pounds
What he does well:
Garland only played four games as a college freshman, but that was enough to show that he is one of the best off-the-dribble shooters in this draft class. When he was operating the Vanderbilt offense, he was liable to pull-up or step-back for a three at any moment.
Generally, that can be a scary thought for a player’s shot selection. Yet Garland appeared to have some restraint, only uses those tools when a defender was caught slacking or sleeping.
In four games, Garland made 11 of 23 from long range, which was either a fluky hot streak or an indicator of his inherent shooting ability. I’m inclined to believe it’s more the latter, given the degree of difficulty of many of those shots.
This step-back triple off of a baseline out of bounds play is a thing of beauty.
Garland’s shooting makes the rest of his offensive skills even sharper. With defenders forcing themselves over screens or pinning themselves to Garland to defend the jumper, he is able to drive-by or manipulate the defense for scoring chances.
He’s particularly comfortable as the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll, with the court vision and patience to adapt to what the defense allows him to do. It’s almost like being a read-option quarterback, keying on the defense at the point of attack and waiting for them to show you what is open. This is an important skill that often goes to waste. Some players, like a Ben Simmons or De’Aaron Fox might have that kind of pick-and-roll instinct, but lack the jump shot to capitalize. Others might lack the speed to attack if the dribble-drive is open. Others might not have the passing eye or ability to get the ball to their roll man, either with a cheeky bounce pass or soft lob.
Garland looks very comfortable operating with the ball in his hands and appears to have all the necessary skills to be the point man for an NBA offense. This screen action that leads to a no-look pass (and missed dunk by 2nd round prospect Simi Shittu) is a good template of what Garland can do.
Where he struggles:
Production against quality competition
Garland hurt his meniscus in his fifth college game and never returned to the court. With him on the floor, Vanderbilt was a completely different team:
In his four games on the floor, Garland only played one power conference team (USC) and one NCAA Tournament team (Liberty). In three games, he scored 19 or more points, with other ups and downs like 6 turnovers against USC.
Against the weakest team he faced, Garland played his worst. Alcorn State was the 349th best team in college basketball this season per KenPom, 5th worst in the nation.
Garland scored just 3 points on 6 shots against Alcorn State, with 4 assists balanced by 3 turnovers. Maybe that game was the blip on what could have otherwise been an All-American season. Or maybe we would have seen more performances like that if Garland had to face the rigors of the SEC.
It’s hard to know for sure and it leaves draft evaluators with a variety of questions. Is Garland really as good a shooter as we saw in that small sample? Will his thin frame be a problem against bigger competition? How will he defend against other NBA level guards?
He looked like a good defender from what I saw, proving particularly wiggly when avoiding screens and sticking to his man’s torso, but that’s based on such a smaller pool of plays than most other players.
I recently re-watched Vanderbilt’s win over Winthrop and came away super-impressed with Garland. Ultimately though, that was a November game against a mid-major. I can’t in good conscience rank Garland above Coby White, who has many of the same skills and proved them against ACC and NCAA Tournament foes. Plus, White is 6-foot-5. Garland’s skinniness and height, at just 6-foot-2, is a drawback.
How his game translates to the NBA:
Garland is a modern player in almost every sense of the word. He can shoot well and, more importantly, can always find a way to get his shot off. He takes to a pick-and-roll like a fish to water but would also have no issue in a motion offense scheme. In the brief time he spent on the floor, he also looked capable of working off-ball to find shots off of cuts and screens.
His defense, especially at his smaller size, will be a question early in his career. With the right energy level though, he should be able to compete defensively against fellow point guards on a nightly basis.
- Kyrie Irving, with less ability to finish at the rim.
- CJ McCollum
- D’Angelo Russell
Next up: #6 Keldon Johnson
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and senior writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to ESPN.com, Rush The Court, Larry Brown Sports, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. You can find every post from this blog on Twitter by following @PalestraBack.