B/R’s Wasserman: ‘Some Belief’ Darius Garland Has NBA Draft Promise from Suns

The Black Team's Darius Garland #10 in action against the White Team during the Jordan Brand Classic high school basketball game, Sunday, April 8, 2018, in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Darius Garland seems likely to be a top-six pick at this year’s NBA draft.

According to B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman there’s “some belief among NBA teams that Garland left the combine with a promise from the Phoenix Suns.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium previously reported that Garland’s decision to leave the NBA Draft Combine was “fueling belief among some teams that he could have a promise in lottery.”

If the promise indeed came from the Suns, it would make sense. Phoenix is in desperate need of a franchise point guard to pair with Devin Booker in the backcourt, which would alleviate some of Booker’s playmaking duties and allow him to focus on being a volume scorer. 

The fact that Booker can facilitate for teammates, however, is precisely why he and Garland would potentially mesh well, as Sam Vecenie of The Athletic wrote in his latest mock draft when projecting Garland to the Suns at No. 6:

“[Garland’s] an elite level shooter as a guard, with range out to about 30 feet, putting pressure on the defense essentially as soon as he crosses half-court. He’s also terrific in ball-screens, knowing exactly how to snake around defenders. The critical swing skill for Garland long-term will be his ability to see the floor and make plays for others. Having grown up playing more off-guard than lead, Garland isn’t necessarily the most adept as a facilitator.

“Garland’s ability to really shoot it, while being something of a lesser distributor, would be a fascinating mesh of skills next to Devin Booker, who has really developed as a playmaker for others over the last three years. That could become a really modern, terrific offensive backcourt who gives the team all sorts of space to operate with Deandre Ayton inside, or in pick-and-rolls.”

Wasserman also projected Garland would land in Phoenix, writing in his latest mock draft that the Vanderbilt guard would “plug a gaping hole in Phoenix, where the Suns need both point guard play and shooting.”

Garland, 19, appeared in just five games for the Commodores this past season, as a meniscus injury cut short his campaign in late November. He was excellent in his time on the court, however, averaging 16.2 points per game while shooting 53.7 percent from the field and an impressive 47.8 percent from three. 

It’s possible, had he remained healthy this season, Garland would have been considered one of the top prospects in this class. It’s still possible he will be.

Regardless, his fit in Phoenix is easy to see, and it appears his floor at this year’s draft could be the No. 6 overall pick. If the Suns made him a promise, the organization will hope another team doesn’t leapfrog them to select him or that teams above them such as the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers or Cleveland Cavaliers don’t fall in love with him in the next month. 

Garland would work well in a backcourt next to Lonzo Ball, for instance, with Ball better suited to be an off-ball player in the half court given his struggles to reliably create his own shot. Plus, he’d be another shooter to put around LeBron James. That assumes the Lakers don’t trade the pick, of course. 

So Garland may not even make it to No. 6, or the Suns may have to swing a deal to move up and get him if they are enamored with his game. It’s just another reason he’ll be one of the more intriguing players to track at this year’s NBA draft.

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