Eastern Notes: Garland, Huerter, Dragić, KD

Cavaliers guard Darius Garland exhibited significant growth in his second NBA season, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, and his ceiling rose accordingly. “I think he can be an All-Star,” assistant coach Greg Buckner told head coach J.B. Bickerstaff during the club’s abbreviated 2020 training camp. “You don’t throw that out too many times, but there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do on offense. The talent is there. I think he’s going to be great. He’s going to be special. He’s one of those guys that can really take you far in the playoffs down the road.”

“He’s super talented,” said assistant coach J.J. Outlaw of the Cavaliers guard, who saw his output develop across the board during the 2020/21 season. “He has really, really good court vision, which is one of the reasons all of his teammates love playing with him. I feel good about where he is. I feel good about the work he’s put in.”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference:

  • Hawks reserve shooting guard Kevin Huerter, the No. 19 pick out of Maryland in 2018, carved out a starring role in a critical Game 7 series during Atlanta’s second-round series against the Sixers, per Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Huerter, eligible for a contract extension during the 2021 offseason, put up 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting to help get the team through to the Eastern Finals. “We’ve all seen his skillset he possesses and how he plays the game, mentally and cerebrally,” Hawks power forward John Collins said. “But it’s really about confidence for Kev. It’s grown.”
  • The Heat will have to decide whether or not to pick up the $19.5MM team option on the contract of longtime point guard Goran Dragić for the 2021/22 season, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Though Dragić was a key part of the team’s surprising run to the 2020 NBA Finals, he regressed during his age-34 season in 2020/21, and the Heat, led by 2020 All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, were swept out of the first round of the 2021 playoffs. Winderman contends that declining the option could help the Heat carve out space for further roster improvements.
  • It was recently revealed that Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant intends to suit up for Team USA during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Though that choice may appear strange, given the fact that health problems have limited Durant to appearing in just 35 of a possible 144 regular season games during his first two seasons with Brooklyn, Ian O’Connor of the New York Post posits that Durant’s clear hunger for a third Olympic gold medal should encourage Nets fans that he continues to pine for more championship hardware.
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