The Cleveland Cavaliers can rely on Donovan Mitchell to deliver another All-NBA caliber regular season. But can he elevate them to a second-round appearance?
Name: Donovan Mitchell
Position: Shooting Guard
Weight: 215 pounds
2022-23 stats: 68 games played, 35.8 minutes per game, 28.3 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, 4.3 assists per game, 48.4% shooting percentage
Mitchell’s first year in Cleveland was a career-best. He solidified himself as an electric three-level scorer worthy of superstar status. Entering the middle of his prime at 27 years old, what else is in store for Mitchell and the Cavaliers?
An offensive superstar with room to grow
Donovan Mitchell is a generational scoring talent. He’s the total package of flash and finesse. Mitchell can detonate a poster dunk at 6’2” just as easily as he can dance one-on-one for a three-point shot.
Mitchell has been on a prolific streak from behind the arch. He made 152 pull-up three-pointers last season, third-most in the NBA. The year before, Mitchell ranked fourth. This is a real part of his game and he’s great at it.
Sustaining this level of volume and efficiency is no easy task and it would not be surprising to see Mitchell regress in this category. Cold spells from deep were the root of his struggles in each of his last two postseason appearances.
That’s why it’s vital Mitchell continues to expand his offensive game. Finding other ways to impact winning will be key for Mitchell as he enters the golden days of his career.
Watch for Mitchell to potentially play off-ball this season and defer to Darius Garland more often. If the Cavaliers truly place an emphasis on space and pace, Mitchell’s job could be much easier than it was last year — no longer having to create everything for himself from scratch. It’s the kind of adjustment that could make Mitchell more efficient.
Easing his foot off the gas and learning when to assert himself as a scorer is the next step for Mitchell. Hopefully, we see a more balanced offensive approach from the Cavaliers with Mitchell continuing to serve as their nucleus.
Mitchell’s uncertain future
Hanging over everyone’s head will be Mitchell’s looming contract extension. He has made it clear that his decision will come next summer but that won’t stop the rumor mill from spinning.
Whether it be Mitchell’s hometown ties to New York or the plight of small markets attempting to retain big names, this is going to be the elephant in the room for Cleveland all year long.
The Cavs should already be motivated with last season’s playoff loss staining their regular season success. Yet, it might be just as important they prove to Mitchell that this is a place where he can maximize his chances of winning. It’s time for the young core to grow up and match Mitchell’s timeline.
Still, Mitchell himself needs to be better. Whether it’s exerting more energy on defense or sacrificing shot attempts on offense, the Cavs will only go as far as Mitchell can lead them. Expect this to be a fun, pressure-filled season for Mitchell.