We didn’t see much of Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland this season, and we won’t get an extended look at him during the NBA Draft Combine, either.
According to a report from The Athletic, the top point guard prospect (behind Murray State sensation Ja Morant) left the combine Thursday, sparking speculation he “could have a promise in the lottery.”
Garland suffered a season-ending knee injury just five games into his freshman season. He joined the Commodores as a five-star recruit and averaged 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists through his first four games.
Despite his injury and lack of game tape, Garland is still a top prize in an otherwise weak draft class behind Morant and Duke stars Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.
Garland noted the immense amount of interest in his game when he announced he’d enter the draft back in January.
“It was the best fit for me because of where I'm placed right now is really unbelievable, especially coming off the injury,” he told 247Sports. "Just having a chance to play in the league, which I've been dreaming about since I can remember, playing in the NBA, just having that chance I couldn't turn that down."
Several teams in the lottery could take a stab at Garland, but the most intriguing may be the Lakers with the fourth overall pick.
Garland is a Klutch Sports client, along with LeBron James, and could either signal a growing movement away from Lonzo Ball in Los Angeles or allow Ball to handle the ball less if he stays with the team.
However, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka could pass on Garland (and everyone else in the draft pool) by using the fourth selection as a trade chip.
"This is a powerful asset for us," Pelinka said on a conference call after the draft lottery Tuesday. "We owe a commitment to our fans to have an outstanding season next year. What this does is it gives us the ability to either select an impact player at [No.] 4 or possibly use this as an extremely valuable asset in trade."
Cleveland seems like an unlikely destination at No. 5 after selecting Collin Sexton a year ago, but the Suns and Bulls at No. 6 and 7, respectively, could benefit from a dynamic scorer like Garland at the point guard position.