Mitchell’s new Cavs record is latest highlight in what’s been stellar season

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)
Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports) /

Did it cost the Cleveland Cavaliers a bunch to acquire Donovan Mitchell in a trade last offseason with the Utah Jazz? Yes, it did. A sign-and-trade involving Collin Sexton, dealing Lauri Markkanen, last summer’s first-round pick in Ochai Agbaji and it costing several future draft assets was a lot.

Even with that having played out, Mitchell has been everything Cleveland could’ve asked for, and then some, in his first season with the team. He’s had career-bests in scoring and relevant shooting efficiency metrics, and his playmaking abilities, vision and underrated passing versatility have lessened some of the pressure on Darius Garland.

What’s been a crucial component for Mitchell’s game has been his perimeter shooting, though, circling back to the scoring/shooting element. Mitchell just dipped back under what would’ve been a career-best shooting rate from deep, but he’s still currently at a 38.3 percent hit rate from three on the year.

Furthermore, Mitchell recently passed J.R. Smith for the Cavs franchise record for made triples in a season in Cleveland’s win over the Miami Heat in South Beach, with Smith previously having that distinction with 204 made in the 2015-16 season. Mitchell, who is now at 205 on the year, showed love to Smith, a guy he knows very well from workouts together, postgame, and Donovan’s gratitude was palpable.

Mitchell’s new Cavs record is the latest highlight in what’s been a stellar year for him.

Whether it’s been the early-season start for Cleveland with eight straight wins to jumpstart the year often where he was often at the controls, or helping propel the Cavaliers in a mid-December comeback win over the Indiana Pacers, there’s been a ton of fireworks from Mitchell. He was named an All-Star starter for the first time in his career this season, too, in what was his fourth All-Star appearance with his former squad in Utah hosting.

Of course, his 71-point career night in an improbable comeback W against the Chicago Bulls in early January got its share of headlines as well, and rightfully so. Following that one, the league stated Mitchell committed a lane violation when he tied the contest to force OT on an intentional free throw miss, but that didn’t diminish his effort, when he had 11 assists as well, and calls are missed all the time.

Also, recently, Mitchell has added to his tally of 40-point games for the Cavaliers. And despite him having a bit of a difficult stretch leading into the All-Star break, partly because of a groin injury, he has picked things back up, and following Cleveland’s overtime win on Monday versus the Boston Celtics, he had his eight 40-point game of the season.

Boston was shorthanded, and that was relevant. Regardless, Mitchell placed himself alongside several NBA greats in doing so, as it relates to a player with those 40-point efforts in his first season with a new team.

He is currently playing with a sprained finger, however, it’s not as if it’s been limited him this week, and overall, it’s clear he’s been such a crucial shot creator, driver and playmaker for the Cavaliers, who are cruising to their first playoff berth in five years.

Mitchell is leading the way for Cleveland on multiple fronts, and him passing Smith for the most threes made in a year in Cavs history is just the latest highlight in what’s been a hell of a year for Don in his first with the Wine and Gold.

Granted, the league is different than it was 10 or even seven years ago, and the game is predicated on threes more than ever, and Smith didn’t have the usage of Mitchell, who has had 9.4 attempts per game from deep this season. Mitchell has hit 205 deep balls on 535 attempts, obviously the Cavs’ all-time season-high, whereas Smith hit 204 on 510 tries.

But that doesn’t mean Mitchell’s shot-making hasn’t been impressive, and his deep shooting has paired so well with his scoring abilities at the other levels. The difficult and shot creation on many of those has been something else, too.

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So, props to Don, who was seemingly humbled by passing a buddy of his, in J.R., in this feat.