Despite only appearing in five nonconference games for Vanderbilt last season, Darius Garland still finds himself sitting at the top of the 2019 NBA Draft class. With the Lakers set to pick fourth, Garland is projected to fall into their lap as one of the best remaining players on the board after the big three of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett.
In his brief time at Vanderbilt, Garland posted some gaudy scoring numbers and averaged 16.8/3.2/2.8 on some extremely impressive 58.1/47.8 shooting splits. Unfortunately, Garland suffered an injury to his right knee which shut him down for the season, limiting the sample size of his work and likely keeping him from being a top two or three pick.
Lakers NBA Draft Scouting Report: Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland Strengths
Shooting, shooting, shooting. Above all else, Garland is a fantastic shooter with nearly limitless range. Able to thrive off the dribble or in catch and shoot situations, there really isn’t a look that Garland doesn’t feel comfortable taking. While his sample size is small, he hit nearly 50% of his looks from deep in college with the vast majority coming from WELL beyond NBA range in situations where he pulled up off the dribble.
In addition to his shooting, Garland is extremely quick with the basketball and does a good job at getting by his man to penetrate the interior of the defense. While his handles could use a bit of cleaning up, he has a repertoire of moves well beyond his years and uses them well to create space for his shots. He is unquestionably the best pure shooter in the draft and for a team like the Lakers (aka desperate for shooting), he could make a lot of sense from a fit standpoint.
Lakers NBA Draft Scouting Report: Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland Weaknesses
For the tantalizing upside that comes with Garland, there also are some serious red flags about how his play might translate to the NBA. First, Garland is a small 6’3″, clocking in at under 180 pounds. While we’ve seen plenty of smaller guards thrive in the NBA, they usually take some time to adjust to the increased speed and physicality of the NBA. Garland’s size and athleticism alone put a firm cap on his defensive upside and at his worst, he could be a player defenses try to repeatedly pick on.
Aside from the physical element, Garland needs to make better decisions with the basketball on offense. While his style of play is more of a gunslinger who is prone to pull up and knock down a shot at any moment, there are times he plays a bit too frenetic on offense and turns the ball over. Going off this point, he needs to work on the timing and accuracy of his passes, specifically in the pick and roll. Too often he misses the window for an easy pass because he’s so focused on scoring the basketball himself. While a little selfishness isn’t bad, you need a point guard at the NBA level who can effectively make those passes in the screen and roll game.
The Final Verdict on Darius Garland: Good Fit for the Lakers or Not?
The biggest question if the Lakers decide to take Garland is what the ball handling situation on the team will be. The Lakers already have a point forward in LeBron James playing with their true point guard Lonzo Ball. Both James and Ball NEED the ball in their hands in order to be effective and adding Garland to the mix only further complicates the matter.
Garland’s arrival would also create a bit of a logjam at point guard as both he and Lonzo play the same position. While in theory, you could play them together in the backcourt, neither player has experience as an off-ball two guard and with LeBron James’ championship window closing, now might not be the best time to experiment.
However, his shooting skills are unparalleled and if the Lakers and new coach Frank Vogel can find a way to work him into the rotation without disrupting their other players too much, Garland might be the answer to their shooting woes.
TLDR: Positionally – no, skill wise – YES