Donovan’s Mitchell’s chances of winning MVP honors in 2023-24

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) /

Since 1956, seven years after the merger of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League that created the NBA, there have been 68 Most Valuable Player awards. Only twice has the regular season’s top individual prize (MVP) been awarded to a Cleveland Cavaliers player, LeBron James, in 2009 and 2010. Yet, the great Oscar Robertson, who, aside from his glowing game and status as the most important player in NBA history, is the only other to hoist the trophy while balling in Ohio, doing it as a member of the Cincinnati Royals in 1964.

Over the summer, ESPN anonymously polled coaches, scouts and executives with questions about the upcoming season and future of the league. Cavaliers shooting guard Donovan Mitchell received one vote predicting he will be the MVP after he had a career year in his first season with Cleveland in 2022-23.

Before getting into the thick of business, here are some critical observations worth addressing: In the category Which team had the best off-season, the San Antonio Spurs received the most votes with four “largely for having ping-pong balls fall their way in May…” Victor Wembanyama, the recent #1 pick in June, is also favored by two electors who think he will be the league’s best player in five years.

Wemby is a nice prospect – becoming the NBA’s best by 24 is a load of expectations to strap on a foreign kid with a giant reticle on his back. Guaranteed, vets are sick of hearing about “generational” talent and are itching to give him a warm welcome to American pro basketball. If anyone thinks Lonzo Ball had it tough because of his father Lavar Ball’s hallucinations, pardon, proclamations about his skills, this will be on another level. The San Antonio Spurs must’ve realized he’s not strong enough to guard any centers, so he must survive at power forward.

For the record, it’s more likely in five years that Evan Mobley is closer to the best in the world than Wembanyama. In fairness, Cleveland’s man has played two seasons but is significantly stronger (yet still needs at least 15 pounds) and has quicker feet defensively. It will take W some years to add diesel, but his clear advantage over Mobley is his passing. As of now, both are inefficient scorers outside of the paint.

Sticking with the matter of concern, Mitchell’s secret admirer must believe he will deliver a historic season. ”Go on!” shout the Cavs’ fans. It would have to be because Bob Cousy and Allen Iverson are the only players at 6-foot-1 or below who have earned an MVP trophy. Standing at 6-foot-3 and shorter, the list adds Steve Nash, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.

What kind of chance does Donovan Mitchell have of winning it?

This season, a low shot, and I wouldn’t advise anyone to place a ticket for him on any of the sportsbooks. Playing next to a great second option doesn’t disqualify, and in fact, some players on super teams have won, but it’s not the norm.

Regarding those on Avenger-like squads, Bill Russell’s Celtics were stacked, and he won five MVPs. In 1967, Philadelphia’s Wilt Chamberlain earned his third working with three Hall of Fame players: Hal Greer, Chet Walker and Billy Cunningham. Boston’s Dave Cowens, in 1973, claimed it alongside Paul Westphal, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White and Paul Silas on a 68-win group. Moses Malone was the titleholder in 1982, was traded to Philadelphia, joining forces with the 1981 winner, Julius Erving, and went back-to-back in 1983. Larry Bird shared the floor with four Hall of Famers, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton, in 1986 when winning his third in a row.

In the WNBA, Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun had a season for the ages, leading her squad to the third-best record behind Las Vegas and New York, without the team’s starting center Brionna Jones, for 27 of 40 games. Additionally, the league hasn’t seen a combo of passer and rebounder like her while she gets by with two torn labrums. She came in second for MVP behind the Liberty’s Breanna Stewart despite leading in first-place votes. Make no mistake: New York is a super team.

Stewart is teammates with the 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones, the reigning Eurocup Women’s Finals MVP Marine Johannès, plus two All-Stars, Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot.

The Cavaliers are by no measure a super team, but they do have an All-Star point guard (Darius Garland), the league’s next great big man (Evan Mobley) and a few fine role players next to Mitchell. The club won 51 games, plus was the East’s fourth seed in 2022-23, and that felt like overachieving because the previous season (2021-22), without Spida Man’s services, it was eliminated in the Play-In Tournament. If he were to lead Cleveland to at least 60 wins, he would enter serious consideration. Remember, the average age of Cleveland’s expected starting unit in 2023-24 is 25 years old.

Another scenario where Mitchell enters the fold is the Cavaliers are burdened with injuries to their central core (which no real Cavs fan wants), and he navigates the group to a respectable enough or stellar record with eye-popping stats.

Some who have won without their help for chunks of the year were LeBron James when taking his third in 2012 as Dwyane Wade was absent a quarter of the year. Kevin Durant won it when Russell Westbrook missed 36 regular season games in 2014. Nikola Jokić won his second in a row in 2022, while Jamal Murray took the year off rehabilitating his ACL injury, and Michael Porter Jr. got his back right after logging nine matches. And recently, Joel Embiid claimed the crown he’s begged for after his No. 2, James Harden, missed 24 outings.

For 2023-24, FanDuel, DraftKings and Caesars Sportsbook like the Denver Nuggets’ Jokić to win his third MVP award in four years. But the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has the ninth and eighth-highest odds to become top dog of the regular season, should be a favorite. The books and the voters on ESPN’s minuscule sample size poll, who ignored SGA’s chances, will learn sooner or later.

SGA led the young Thunder to the Play-In Tournament last season and the average age of the five players with most starts is 21.6. He also was the best player on Team Canada in the FIBA World Cup, winning Bronze for his country – momentum from his fabulous play will carry over. Chet Holmgren, a red-shirt rookie, is expected to provide a scoring punch and paint protection this season for the Thunder.

Not counting Luka Dončić, SGA is the best guard in the league. In 2022-23, OKC’s record was 40-42, which set him lightyears away from legitimately being considered. Fun fact: the only NBAer to win MVP and not make the playoffs was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1976 in his first year with the Los Angeles Lakers.

SGA’s responsibility as the main scheme killer on such a young team gives him an edge over other players with deeper teams like Mitchell, especially if OKC can get to 50+ wins or as close to it as possible.

As for Mitchell, following in King James’ footsteps for individual glory would be nice, but leading the Cavaliers to an NBA Finals or becoming champs is much sweeter.

Next. Grade the Trade: Cavaliers get expensive in scintillating proposal. dark

Those are lofty goals for the unit, but if he reaches for the stars, it should be in the right direction –  the one that leads to raining confetti, splashing champagne, flashy jewels and prideful memories.