Donovan Mitchell lit it up for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. Following Cleveland acquiring Mitchell via trade last offseason from the Utah Jazz, he had his best season to date.
Mitchell had 28.3 points per contest on 61.4 percent true shooting, both of which were career-highs. Mitchell would go on to break Cleveland’s single-season record for three-pointers made as well, with 245 in the 2022-23 campaign. He had his share of monster games.
From here, though, while Cleveland has one of the league’s best combo guards in Mitchell to go to, it was meaningful for them to add shooting this offseason. Max Strus and Georges Niang should theoretically aid Mitchell and others, such as Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, and hopefully, Cleveland’s spacing and bench play should be noticeably improved.
To those points, time will have to tell, but at least to some extent, with others in the fold, and guys now more accustomed to playing with him, it would seem that Mitchell might be able to be more deferential next season. That’d also pay dividends for the Cavaliers, realistically.
Mitchell’s numbers might be trimmed a bit in 2023-24, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Cavaliers.
Mitchell is going to get his, and is undoubtedly going to be Cleveland’s top option. He’s fresh off a Second Team All-NBA season, and is a four-time All-Star, dating back to his last three years with the Jazz included; he’s one of the league’s top guards.
That said, while Mitchell is going to have a very high usage, given that’s occurred for most of his career, and as he’s emerged as one of the league’s best shot creators, the Cavaliers might be better off if his looks were trimmed a little bit. This isn’t to suggest he’s not going to be filling it up as a top-tier scorer, of course, and he’ll likely hover around 25 points per contest.
Even with that in mind, with others involved such as Strus, Niang and LeVert, to some extent, Cleveland should have more layers offensively around Mitchell for stretches next season. He might be able to operate as a bit more of a decoy/off-ball option, at least in theory, with Cleveland allowing others to handle some more on-ball duties and/or feature shooters off-ball.
Granted, as we expressed, Mitchell is the top option for the Wine and Gold, and in the last two seasons, he’s placed in 99th and 100th percentiles in usage rate, per Cleaning The Glass. He’s going to be among the league leaders in that metric, one would assume.
If Cleveland can utilize him a bit more as a movement shooter, perhaps, in instances when he’s playing with Garland or LeVert, though, that could potentially free up others, and open up room for Mobley inside the arc. Maybe Allen could have some more space as an interior presence in that same light as well.
It’ll take some time into the season to project how things will be leading into the second half of the year and into the playoffs, but it’d behoove Cleveland to prioritize some more balance this season. Mitchell underachieved in the playoffs against the Knicks, as did several other Cavaliers on offense, and that can’t happen again in the playoffs next go-around. There’s no excuses for this Cleveland team come next postseason.
If the Cavs’ new additions can make a difference for spacing and shooting around Mitchell and others, however, and/or if Mobley can take the leap offensively, Cleveland and Mitchell could be less predictable come the playoffs.
In addition, if the Cavaliers are a bit less reliant on Mitchell being such a big-time player each game, it’d help him be fresher come the playoffs.
We’ll have to see what transpires starting again next month with the start of the 2023-24 campaign, but Mitchell’s regular season numbers being trimmed a bit could be a positive for Cleveland.