Darius Garland and Collin Sexton are an intriguing backcourt in Cleveland. The two guards create an undersized backcourt with both guards standing at 6-foot-1. Some concerns come up about the Cavs’ undersized backcourt. For example, can Garland and Sexton defend well enough? Also, the two guards have been productive, but can an undersized backcourt in the NBA win games? One perfect example of a winning undersized backcourt is the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers’ backcourt could be the perfect model for Cleveland.
As mentioned, both Garland and Sexton stand at 6-foot-1. Garland being 6-foot-1 is certainly acceptable at the point guard position. However, Sexton at 6-foot-1 is undersized for the shooting guard position. There are times where Sexton plays point guard, since he is capable. Still, Cleveland’s starting lineup and closing lineup has Sexton playing point guard.
In the modern NBA, many wing players are very lengthy. Sexton does not have great length either, further adding to being undersized. The ideal height for a shooting guard in today’s NBA is usually from 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-6. When Sexton is tasked with guarding lengthy shooting guards standing at 6-foot-4 or taller, it is a major disadvantage.
On the other hand, Garland and Sexton are well-built. Both guards weigh around 190 pounds. This does help the undersized backcourt quite a bit. This allows particularly Sexton to play a more physical style of basketball that most 6-foot-1 guard cannot do. While Garland and Sexton are definitely smaller than most backcourts, this does not mean they cannot be successful.
Blazers’ Undersized Success
One NBA backcourt that has similar size to Cleveland’s backcourt is the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been very successful in Portland for several years now. Lillard is 6-foot-2 while McCollum stands at 6-foot-3. McCollum still is considered a somewhat undersized shooting guard, especially considering he only weighs roughly 190 pounds.
Lillard has been one of the premier point guards in the NBA for awhile now, and McCollum has averaged over 20 points per game for six seasons in a row. The Blazers backcourt is their driving force without question. Also, Portland has made the playoffs for seven straight seasons. Their backcourt is proof an undersized backcourt can win in the NBA.
Both Garland and Sexton were drafted at the young age of 19. Meanwhile, both Lillard and McCollum came into the league at the age of 22. Lillard has averaged at least 19 points in every season during his career. In addition, McCollum did not average double-figures until his third season, the age of 24.
For comparison, Sexton is averaging over 24 points in his third season compared to Lillard’s 21 points per game in his third season. Furthermore, Sexton is shooting 48.1% in his third season compared to Lillard’s 43.4% in his third season. It is unlikely Sexton will ever reach the level Lillard is at, he is truly one of the special guards in the NBA. Still, Sexton has reached a high level of play at the young age of 22. In addition, McCollum averaged only 6.8 points in his second season and was 23-years-old. Garland at 21 is averaging over 17 points per game in his second season.
Overall, Garland and Sexton have started their career well in Cleveland. When seeing Portland’s success with Lillard and McCollum, Cleveland should feel fine with their undersized backcourt. Garland and Sexton may not reach the heights that Lillard and McCollum have, but the Cavaliers backcourt could still win in the future.
All stats courtesy of ESPN and Basketball-Reference.