Against the Thunder, Donovan Mitchell assumed the responsibilities as the primary ballhandler and facilitator. Quickly, the Cavs reverted to their predictable offense from a season prior, though Max Strus still managed to infuse some level of energy. Throughout his career, Donovan Mitchell has never spearheaded a fast-paced offense. Mitchell’s teams have consistently ranked in the lower third of the NBA in pace other than two seasons in 2018-19 and 2020-21. Tremendous players such as Mitchell naturally find themselves playing whatever style they know best, and he has done best as a playmaker on slower teams.
This Cavaliers roster will suffer with a slow pace, though. The bogged down offensive approach led to numerous mistakes in the first two games with rushed passes out of a failed Mitchell drive, giving the Nets and Thunder easy transition baskets that should have been avoided. While Evan Mobley became a major playmaker in the preseason, his usage was significantly lowered in games one and two, often relegated to setting a high screen and not much else. On Mitchell’s drives, Mobley would often leak out to the 3-point line, leaving no help for offensive rebounds if Mitchell could not convert.
Continuing the season, the commitment to a fast offense is something to continue watching. The Cavaliers’ messy play will surely be addressed once healthy, but these concerns must be at the forefront going forward. A concerted effort to involve Evan Mobley in both scoring and playmaking will pay dividends for this team, an aspect that has shown great strides already this year and will be covered further shortly.
Max Strus and Georges Niang were the top two names the Cavaliers acquired this summer as answers to their dreadful 3-point shooting from last season.
While Strus has been exceptional in two of his first three games, Niang did not connect from deep in his first two outings. Thus far, Niang is shooting 1-of-12 from long range. As a career 40-percent sharpshooter, this sort of start to a season is not the expected result. The frustration in Niang is visible, too, as he has come to the Cavaliers bench during timeouts clearly frustrated with the offensive execution.
Niang thrives in fluid offenses, knocking it down from the corner at an amazing rate. When an offense is hampered like the Cavaliers so far, it is hard to involve Niang properly. A slow start is not the end of the world for the Minivan, however. In the 2020-21 season, Niang did not score from deep until the eighth game of the year. Niang followed this up with his best shooting season of his career, ending with a 42.5 3-point percentage on 4.1 attempts per game. As difficult as it has been for Niang to start this season, the Cavaliers should be confident in his ability to return to form and make a winning impact going forward.
For as many woes as Cleveland faced this week, there are plenty of highlights to cover. With a 1-2 season start, it is necessary to recognize the areas of needed improvement, but that growth can only materialize by embracing the positive aspects.
Three Cavaliers shined the brightest amidst the painful start, and they deserve their crowns.