The growth of Cleveland Cavaliers star Darius Garland has been a terrific storyline to watch. The third-year guard earned his first All-Star appearance this season by averaging 21.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists, which are all career-highs. Garland has continued to develop as a scorer and a playmaker.
No player can play all 48 minutes and finding a proper backup for the team’s best guy is essential. The growth in Garland’s usage in the offense also makes his reliever much more valuable. The Cavaliers were bitten by the injury bug this year with Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio both being shut down for the season with knee injuries. Rajon Rondo also battled nagging injuries and it is clear his best years are behind him.
With Rubio set to hit free agency, here are three names to keep an eye on in free agency as the Cavaliers search for a more impactful backup for Garland.
3 Realistic Darius Garland backup options
3. Delon Wright
Wright has been a journeyman guard for most of his career. He has played for six different NBA teams and has only started more than half of his team’s games once in his career. Even so, Wright made a statement with his performance for the Atlanta Hawks in this year’s NBA Playoffs and the Cavaliers should feel comfortable handing him the keys with the second unit.
The 20th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft is also coming off one of his most impressive stretches of play. Wright played an important role in the Hawks’ recent postseason run. He played 27.4 minutes per game and was very valuable on the defensive end. The 8.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists he averaged this postseason may not be eye-popping, but he comfortably played the role of a backup guard. Wright picked up the defensive slack that Trae Young lacked and this type of versatility would be beneficial to the Cavaliers as well.
2. Tyus Jones
There are few backups who carry themselves with the confidence of Jones. The former Duke product is never afraid to step into the big moments and has been used in a variety of ways in his seven seasons in the league. Jones began his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves before spending the past three seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies. The six-foot guard is coming off his best season where he started 23 of the 73 games he played. Jones averaged 8.7 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 39% on three-point attempts.
One of the added benefits of Jones is he could be effective with the starters as well as backing up Garland. He is capable of running an offense and this could be beneficial if the Cavaliers are looking to shift Garland to playing off the ball for stretches. His reassuring presence and effective shooting make Jones a productive backup on any NBA roster and the Cavaliers would be wise to capitalize on his talents.
1. Aaron Holiday
He may not have the name recognition as his brothers, but Holiday has turned himself into a fine NBA player. He is a career 37.3% three-point shooter and has seen improvement in his playmaking in recent years. Holiday tied his career-high 3.4 assists per game this season despite playing 8.2 fewer minutes than when he did it in the 2019-20 season.
He is currently playing for the Phoenix Suns but has mostly been cut out of their playoff rotation. The 25-year-old is likely a cheaper backup option but shows signs of promise nonetheless. His ability to beat defenders off the dribble is intriguing and he is comfortable playing within his role. Holiday thrives in an up-tempo offense and could create some electric highlights for the Cavaliers. It may be seen as more of a risk given his lack of play, but Holiday likely benefitted greatly from his time behind Chris Paul and Cameron Payne.
The backup point guard position is one of the most overlooked positions in sports. It is essential to have a competent second figure running the offense as a lead can dissipate during the backup minutes. Expect the Cavaliers to be active in the backup guard market this offseason.