CLEVELAND (AP) — Darius Garland’s short-lived college career didn’t scare off the Cavaliers.
They’ve had luck with an injured point guard before.
Hoping to quicken their rebuild following a 19-win season, the Cavs selected Garland with the No. 5 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night despite him playing in just five games at Vanderbilt last season.
Garland suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during a Nov. 23 game against Kent State and underwent season-ending surgery. The 19-year-old might have salvaged his freshman year, but decided to focus on getting ready for the draft.
He became something of a mystery man because of his limited time in college, but Garland’s stock has steadily risen and the Cavs were impressed after attending his private workout in Los Angeles.
This isn’t the first time the Cavs have rolled the dice on a high draft pick. A similar gamble with a point guard turned out well in 2011, when the team took Duke’s Kyrie Irving at No. 1 overall despite him playing in just 11 college games.
Irving not only blossomed into an All-Star, but made the biggest shot in franchise history — a go-ahead jumper in the waning moments of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals as the Cavs beat Golden State for their first NBA title to end Cleveland’s 52-year title drought.
The Cavs plan to pair Garland in the backcourt with Collin Sexton, a lottery pick in 2018 who shook off a slow start to have a strong rookie season. Sexton played point last season, but is considered more of a shooting guard and scorer.
“I just like to win,” Garland said moments after sharing a hug on stage at New York’s Barclays Center with Commissioner Adam Silver. “I’m a competitor. I’m ready to get to Cleveland.”
Vanderbilt fell apart after losing Garland. The Commodores were 4-0 with him, but went 5-23 the rest of the way, losing their last 20 games.
The Cavs pulled off another mild surprise with their second choice in the first round, picking Belmont swingman Dylan Windler at No. 26. As a senior, the 6-foot-8 Windler averaged 21.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, made 43 percent of his 3-pointers and led the Bruins to their first NCAA Tournament win.
Although there was a flurry of trade activity prior to the draft sandwiched around Cleveland’s No. 5 pick — Atlanta moved to No. 4 and Minnesota to No. 6 — the Cavs stayed put.
General manager Koby Altman considered several offers to move up and down, but never found the right deal and chose the 6-foot-3 Garland, who averaged 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in his brief collegiate career.
Garland is represented by agent Rich Paul, whose clients include LeBron James as well as current Cavaliers J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson. Smith was exiled from the team last season, and the Cavs have been shopping him to dump his $15.7 million contract for next season and open up salary-cap space.
Garland is the first player selected by Cleveland since the team hired former Michigan coach John Beilein, who built a sterling reputation in college developing young players.
Garland’s father, Winston, played in the NBA from 1987-95.
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