The Cleveland Cavaliers looked excellent for the 19 games they played without Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, going 15-4 and playing connected basketball throughout. With those two young stars back and healthy, the Cavs looked slightly disjointed against the lowly Detroit Pistons. Here’s how the market looks following Cleveland’s 128-121 victory over young and feisty Detroit.
Stock up: Donovan Mitchell is that dude
The trade rumors have been plentiful, largely manifestations of the tried mantra “superstar doesn't like the small market”, but Donovan Mitchell has ignored them and continues playing All-Star basketball. Last night against the Pistons, Mitchell was the best player on the court. He made things look effortless on the offensive end, slinking to the rim and cooly drilling this three-pointer late in the game to tie things up:
How Mitchell and Garland mesh for the rest of the season will be one of the most-watched storylines, but the difference between them is clear: Mitchell is a superstar having one of his best seasons yet. Garland is still recovering from a broken jaw and needs time to mesh with the rest of the starters, much like fellow returning starter Evan Mobley. But Mitchell is the closest thing the Cavs have had to LeBron James, a guy who can take over a game on offense and make everything easier.
Stock up: Darius Garland is healthy
The good news, and most importantly, is that Garland is healthy. He had a little rust, but the playmaking and shooting were on full display in his 20 minutes of court time last night.
It is so nice to have both Garland and Mobley back and healthy. A reminder of what the Cavs were missing:
Again, how Garland and Mitchell work together (or, on a sour note, don't work), will be a huge thing to monitor for the rest of the season. With how well the Cavs played without him, it has naturally made some fans question the necessity of Garland next to another small guard. But in a vacuum, Garland is the team’s second-best player and can be the engine on any given night. Defensively, there are some question marks. Despite his 19 points in 20 minutes, Garland was still a -16, the worst on the team. It’s his first game back, so hopefully it's nothing but up for the healthy Cavs backcourt moving forward.
Stock Down: three-point shooting defense
The Pistons are the worst team in the league in terms of shooting, and making three-pointers. One would not have thought that if they watched the game last night, as Detroit was scorching hot from deep the entire game. The Pistons shot 57% from deep, their best mark of the entire season. They shot 70% from the corner and 50% from everywhere else from beyond the arc, quite a feat considering their personnel. Danilo Gallinari and Bojan Bogdanovic were a combined 8/12 from deep, amounting to almost half of the team’s three-point attempts. The Cavs allow the eighth-fewest three-point attempts in the league but teams make 35.9% of them, the fifth-worst in the league per Cleaning the Glass. So when teams get them off, they tend to make them.
Stock Up: Sam Merrill is still going to get minutes
Despite Garland coming back, Sam Merrill still saw 16 minutes and attempted five three-pointers - making three of them. J.B. Bickerstaff said after the game he wants to keep finding minutes for him, and it's easy to see why. The shooting gravity is important, and his willingness to take threes is just as crucial.