Donovan Mitchell made his mark for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2022-23 campaign, and then some. He had career-highs in points per game and tied a career-high in three-point percentage with 28.3 and 38.6 percent, respectively, and he tacked on 4.4 assists on average, too.
For Mitchell’s efforts, he was named All-NBA Second Team in what was his first season with the Cavaliers, following his trade acquisition from the Utah Jazz last offseason. He was also an All-Star starter for the first time in his six seasons in the Association this last go-around.
Mitchell’s multifaceted offensive game was on display throughout the year, and while it took some time to get guys on the same page with him, eventually, things worked out pretty well. Mitchell was one of the engines of Cleveland’s offense on an every-game basis, in tandem with Darius Garland, in particular, and for Cleveland, Mitchell was often the tone-setter from the outset of contests.
For the Wine and Gold offense, Mitchell is going to be one of the crucial players for them and is going to register a high usage game-in and game-out. That’s only natural with the talent level he has, and he’s Cleveland’s best offensive option who has been a four-time All-Star through six seasons.
Whether it’s in set offensive situations or in transition, Mitchell is a constant threat opponents have to have their eyes on at all times.
That said, next season and looking onward, the Cavaliers should be stressing for him to be stepping on the gas to get quality looks on the break or playing off that, seeking sprayouts to shooters in those instances more.
Mitchell pushing on the break has to be continually emphasized by the Cavs to keep defenses off-balance.
The Cavaliers played at the league’s slowest pace last season, but that didn’t mean Mitchell himself didn’t have transition looks as a meaningful part of his shot diet.
18.0 percent of Mitchell’s shot attempts in the regular season came in transition, and he placed in the 65th percentile among scorers in those situations in the regular season, per Synergy Sports. For context, Mitchell registered 1.19 points per possessions as a transition scorer then.
His combination of driving and finishing from speed, strength and change-of-pace in those early offensive scenarios led to him generating easier baskets on a number of occasions. There were a plethora of big-time throwdowns from the Cavaliers star combo guard as a result.
The counters from Mitchell were there, too. His pull-up shooting prowess from deep and in the mid-range resulted in plenty of quality shots in early-clock sequences as well.
Now, as we mentioned before, Cleveland did not play fast, as evidenced by their pace. Although, Mitchell himself was getting to early offensive shots himself, and with Garland handling more of the primary playmaking duties, that played some into it.
Granted, Mitchell was not nearly as efficient overall in Cleveland’s underwhelming playoff performance in a five-game loss in the first round to the New York Knicks, and in transition scoring, he placed in the 42nd percentile, per Synergy. He had 1.00 points per possession then, and had an effective field goal shooting clip of 50.0 percent, as opposed to that being 63.5 percent in the regular season.
With the Cavs struggles in set offense in the series, however, it was understandable for Mitchell to try to push more, as his frequency increased then.
Further, looking onward for next season, if the Cavaliers can find ways to add perimeter shooting this offseason via trade and/or in free agency, of which seems likely, that could help them play faster. From there, that could also enable Mitchell and Garland to find others on the wing for more open threes in early offense, which in turn, would make Cleveland’s dynamic backcourt more dangerous, even come playoff time.
To reiterate, even with him still set for a high usage, next season, the Cavs should be continually stressing for Mitchell to be pushing the ball when it’s feasible. Both in odd-man break situations and at times in secondary transition, Mitchell is electric as a scorer and maybe next season we could see him faciliate more off that presence, provided the Cavaliers can add shooting going into 2023-24.
The frequency for Mitchell as a transition scorer probably will be similar, for clarification. Even with that being the expectation, if the Cavaliers, in general, can push pace some more in games, their offense could be more versatile come playoff time and the team would be more acclimated to playing a mix of styles.