I was fully prepared for the Memphis Grizzlies to be picking fourth or eighth, and if you have been a Grizzlies fan for awhile, you understand why.
As you know by now, the basketball gods smiled down - well maybe grinned or smirked - at the Grizzlies as the lottery awarded Memphis the second overall pick. At no point in the scouting process did I look at Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, or RJ Barrett because I had zero belief any of them would be in reach. I spent most of my time hyping up one guy.
Darius Garland. 6’3” point guard from Vanderbilt University.
Many of you probably did not hear about him during this college basketball season. Possibly asking yourself, “If this guy is a top guy in the draft, why was Vandy so terrible that the fired their coach?”
After leading the Commodores to a 4-0 start, Garland went down with a meniscus injury that kept him out the remainder of the season and his team went 5-23 without him.
SO WHO IS HE
Garland was a High School McDonald’s All American and was ranked 16th in the class of 2018. In the McDonald’s All-American Game all he did was dish out 11 assists, not something you see in a showcase where everyone was trying to get theirs.
He had offers from Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and UCLA, just to name a few. He was a top prospect and wanted by everyone for a reason.
So why still take a look at Garland? Take this scenario for instance:
Lakers offer the #4 overall pick (and a player) for Mike Conley. You know that before the #2 pick. With the second pick you can take RJ Barrett, once projected to be drafted ahead of Zion (yep), and then at 4 you get Garland to be the point guard of the future.
An unlikely scenario, but draft night is one of the more unpredictable nights, and we need to be prepared for anything!
Darius has been likened by some to a Damian Lillard type because of his ability to create his own shot, like these:
Here's this to give you a quick idea of what Darius Garland can do shooting off the dribble. No clue on the whole being a PG thing but the ease, burst and handle in all this sure is something. pic.twitter.com/P8PLN0TJCz— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) May 15, 2019
His court vision and playmaking are also border line elite, and in today’s NBA an elite facilitator at point is a valuable asset.
He is the same height as Damian Lillard which is just fine, the issue is that he is twenty pounds lighter. Garland is literally smaller than I am. At 175 pounds, Garland is going to have to put on weight and get stronger because he is not an elite athlete like Morant.
While having great court vision, his decision making was also questionable at time, his college career, albeit short, he had a negative assist/turnover ratio. He also struggled with turnovers in high school. He will have to improve on his decisions to stay on the floor early in his career.
In the End
Health wise, knee injuries are a crap shoot. Some guys recover, some guys are never the same. The Memphis Grizzlies know that all too well, sadly. It was just a meniscus which in the grand scheme of knee injuries, is minor, but right now he is unproven and a gamble.
Garland is clearly not going in the top 3, but many believe he is a lock at number 4. He may be the fourth best player in this draft, but he's been off the court for a long while and will have to prove himself worth the risk.
He could have one of the best careers of any player in this draft, or his size and decision making could relegate him to an above average role player.