INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers coach John Beilein doesn’t care whether Darius Garland or Collin Sexton is the point guard. Heck, he won’t even specify positions.
“Doesn’t make a difference. It real doesn’t,” Beilein said Friday at a news conference to introduce No. 5 pick Garland and No. 26 pick Dylan Windler. “We get out of (naming) positions. That’s the whole idea of positionless basketball. We’ll have two guards, two forwards and a big center.
“That will all depend on who we’re playing and who’s playing well, who’s injured. Hopefully, we can morph into whatever shape we need to take as games and times go on.”
The 20-year-old Sexton, chosen by the Cavs with the No. 8 pick last year, and 19-year-old Garland are both 6-foot-2. Both grew up as scoring point guards. Both are eager to play together in the backcourt.
When general manager Koby Altman called Sexton prior to the NBA Draft on Thursday to inform him the Cavs might take Vanderbilt’s Garland, Sexton was all for it and told the GM he had been studying Portland’s 6-3 duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
The soft-spoken Garland, who appeared in just five games as a Commodores freshman before tearing the meniscus in his left knee, is equally eager to see what the diminutive duo can do.
“Collin is really good,” he said. “I think I can help him. I think we can both combine and do some crazy things in Cleveland.”
Garland shot .478 on 3-pointers (11-for-23) in his limited action at Vanderbilt and has range that extends well beyond the NBA arc. Sexton shot a surprising .402 from deep as a rookie, while 6-8 swingman Windler connected at a .406 clip over his four-year career at Belmont, including .429 as a senior (100-for-233).
“If you follow any of the really successful teams, you just see more and more of it,” Beilein said of 3-point shooting. “Obviously, seeing (Garland) was really good (penetrating) — not that you can’t play with a lot of different point guards and still win — but I felt and we felt collectively that as soon as we got Darius with that type of ability, we’ve got to give him more space now.
“The space comes from (Windler). Having more shooters on the court — you’ve still got to know how to play, how to defend, have some quickness about them as well — but the more shooters you’ve got on the court, that’s who’s winning right now. There’s no question about it.”
The Cavs have other capable 3-point shooters in Brandon Knight (.371), Kevin Love (.361), Cedi Osman (.348) and sometimes Jordan Clarkson (.324). Their .355 shooting as a team ranked 11th in the 30-team league, but they ranked 24th with just 29.1 attempts per game.
Pairing Garland and Sexton in the backcourt — if they can survive defensively — should lead to a lot of drive-and-kick opportunities, which in turn should result in more open 3-point attempts.
“The two of them are going to be beautiful together,” said Beilein, who attempted to recruit Garland while at Michigan. “They’re going to make me a much better coach than I am.”
One of the best offensive minds in basketball, Beilein likes to play a two-guard front, meaning his teams basically have a playmaking guard on both sides of the court.
The first-time NBA coach became convinced Garland was the right choice for the Cavs when the team’s staff attended a workout in Los Angeles a week ago.
“That really meant a lot to me when the whole staff came out,” Garland said. “I knew they were interested. I knew I had to come out and put on a show for them.”
At that point, the 66-year-old Beilein chimed in, “He was shooting from Nashville and we were in California.”
With Garland on board, the Cavs asked themselves one primary question as the 26th pick approached.
“Who’s the best shooter in the draft?” Altman asked Thursday night, after his pick had revealed who he thought was No. 1.
The left-handed Windler didn’t have a Division I basketball offer — he’s a scratch golfer and was considering playing that sport in college at the time — until he excelled while his team won an AAU tournament the summer before his senior year of high school.
Just like that, he had 20 offers and chose Belmont, where he averaged 4.3 points as a freshman, 9.2 as a sophomore, 17.3 and 9.3 boards as a junior and 21.3 and 10.8 as a senior. He entered the draft projected to go late in the first round or early in the second.
“I wasn’t too caught up or worried about whether I’d be a pick or not,” he said of his senior season. “I just tried to focus on myself and help Belmont be the best team they could be.”
The Bruins went 27-6 and, with Windler leading the league in rebounding despite weighing just 200 pounds, captured the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title. No. 11 seed Belmont lost 79-77 to sixth-seeded Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament despite 35 points and 11 rebounds from Windler.
“A lot of it’s more of a mentality about it,” Windler said of his work on the boards. “You go in with the mentality that every ball coming off the rim is yours and you go get it.”
Garland, Windler and Southern Cal shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr. — taken by the Cavs at No. 30 after a trade with Detroit but not at the news conference because the deal won’t become official until July 6 — are taking the next step in their basketball journeys.
Both from colleges in Nashville, Tenn., Garland and Windler are confident, but know it won’t be easy.
“It’s a big difference coming from Belmont to the pros,” Windler said.
Windler, however, already has shown he can beat the odds, while Garland became the No. 5 pick in the draft despite playing just five games in college.
“This was the first time I was away from the game that I love, so it was really hard,” Garland said. “I got over the hump and it’s in the past now.”