Thirty minutes before the Cleveland Cavaliers opened up at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, All-Star point guard Darius Garland was ruled out by the team. Garland, who had 15 points and five assists in Cleveland’s recent win over the Brooklyn Nets, has been dealing with a strained left hamstring. He was able to play through the injury in the Cavs’ season opener against the Nets. But hamstring injuries are tricky and will leave Garland day-to-day until it completely heals.
While the Cavs wait for Garland to get right, there’s a bit of an issue with Cleveland’s nightly rotations. Outside of Garland, the Cavs don’t have another traditional point guard on their roster while Ricky Rubio is away from the team. Sure, whenever Garland sits, Cleveland can lean on a combination of Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert and Ty Jerome to soak up reserve minutes. But that’s when Garland is available to play for the Cavs.
Cavs' offensive problems without Darius Garland evident
When Garland isn’t available, it can potentially throw Cleveland’s offense into disarray.
Well, the potential almost became a reality for the Cavs in their home-opening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Instead of relying on movement, motion and off-ball screens, like Cleveland wanted to execute this season, the offensive flow was reminiscent of last season. Things were one-note and very isolation-heavy in the half-court, with Cleveland frequently clearing out for Mitchell to cook.
Whatever Mitchell cheffed up against the Thunder was the recipe for success considering he had 43 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. More impressively, the Cavs scored 95 points as a team when Mitchell was on the floor versus the measly ten Cleveland had without their superstar leading the charge.
This was the same gameplan Cleveland leaned on whenever things were tight last season, and it led to the Cavs winning 51 games and Mitchell making all-time history in a 71-point explosion. It also led to Cleveland securing the home win over Oklahoma City. But, while Garland is unavailable, it isn’t a viable, long-term path to success. There are going to be nights Mitchell can’t get things rolling on offense and if someone else isn’t out there to get others involved, it could lead to some ugly losses down the line.
Having a reliable option at point guard allows the Cavs to get their star big men in Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen along with all their offseason additions to establish a rhythm on offense. The reason why the Cavs went out during the offseason to add more depth is so they didn’t have to rely exclusively on Garland or Mitchell to generate all forms of offense.
But, with Rubio away from the team and Garland on a game-to-game basis, what can the Cavs do to fix this issue? Well, Cleveland could ride out the storm and give Garland a week or two to make sure his hamstring injury doesn’t remain nagging. That means at most Garland would miss the next six games for the Cavs if they shut him down to recover. It’s not a perfect plan, but with how talented Cleveland is, it could be worth a shot.
But, more than anything, the Cavs need to address this issue if Rubio doesn’t return to the court this season. Currently, there isn’t a bona fide answer on the roster at this juncture. But this season is too important to ignore the obvious need. Hopefully, for Cleveland’s sake, Garland gets healthier sooner rather than later. Since right now, Garland’s hamstring is leaving the Cavs hamstrung on offense.