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3 Instant Reactions After Darius Garland's Max Cavaliers Contract Extension

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJuly 2, 2022

Rick Osentoski/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers have reportedly committed to Darius Garland, agreeing to sign the point guard to a five-year, $193 million max extension, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

It gives the 22-year-old a hefty salary as he enters his prime:

Yossi Gozlan @YossiGozlan

Darius Garland's maximum with the Cavaliers, currently projected at five years, $192.9M:<br><br>2023-24: $33.3M<br>2024-25: $35.9M<br>2025-26: $38.6M<br>2026-27: $41.2M<br>2027-28: $43.9M<br><br>He gets the Rose rule provision allowing him to get up to 5Y/$231.4M like Ja Morant and Zion Williamson. <a href="https://t.co/JsXTIGwWk4">https://t.co/JsXTIGwWk4</a>

The deal is also a significant decision for the Cavaliers as they try to build a contender. Let's break down the ramifications.


Pressure Is on Garland to Keep Improving

Garland is coming off a breakout season in which he averaged 21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game, earning his first All-Star selection. He finished third in the voting for the league's Most Improved Player behind Ja Morant and Dejounte Murray.

The guard is exceeding expectations as the No. 5 pick in the 2019 draft and has proved he can be a go-to option offensively.

However, he is getting superstar money, and the current numbers won't quite cut it.

The latest contract, without the escalators, averages $38.6 million per year, which would rank 14th in the NBA, per Spotrac. It puts him ahead of more proven players such as Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid.

It's a monster investment for a player who ranked 49th in the NBA in win shares last season. In 2020-21, Garland ranked 276th in the same category.

The Cavaliers aren't necessarily paying him for what he has done so far, but more for what he can do. It's up to the guard to keep making strides toward a jump from All-Star to All-NBA and possibly MVP candidate.


Cleveland Believes in Its Core

When Kevin Durant requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, nearly every team in the NBA should have looked for ways to acquire the superstar. The Cavaliers might have been a spot that made sense thanks to its young talent and cap space to make an enticing package.

Garland's new deal probably puts an end to that.

It likely ends any chance of Garland being the centerpiece of any trade, ensuring he sticks in Cleveland for the long term.

Meanwhile, the high salary might limit much cap space for any high-profile free agents in the coming years.

This means the Cavaliers will move forward with Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen among the key pieces. This is obviously an exciting group, but it remains to be seen whether these players are enough to win a championship.

After four years without a playoff berth, the Cavs face a lot of pressure to keep improving.


Say Goodbye to Collin Sexton?

As a restricted free agent, Collin Sexton can explore the open market before giving the Cavaliers a chance to match any offer. Based on the latest deal, it seems unlikely he will return to Cleveland.

The organization likely won't be able to afford both guards on long-term deals, especially with Allen already making $20 million per year and Mobley eventually needing an extension.

The 6'1" Garland and 6'1" Sexton also seemingly don't fit together on the court as undersized, ball-dominant guards. Garland greatly improved once Sexton went down for the year with a knee injury in November.

The Cavaliers chose Garland and will likely let Sexton leave in free agency.

This is certainly a surprising twist compared to this time last year. Sexton led the Cavaliers in scoring in 2020-21 with 24.3 points per game and was seemingly a lone bright spot on a struggling team.

A year later, Sexton will likely need to find a new home on the open market. There could be significant interest thanks to his scoring ability, but the 23-year-old might first have to prove he is back to full strength before signing a big deal.

As for Cleveland, look for rookie Ochai Agbaji to see a significant role in the rotation right away.


Stats via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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