Cavs’ bumpy start doesn’t diminish what Donovan Mitchell has been doing

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports) /

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, the start to this season has not been the greatest. Cleveland has begun the 2023-24 campaign at 3-4, and they lost three of four games to open the season.

The Wine and Gold have been out of sync for some key stretches of games, and the defensive play and to some degree, the offensive flow has been inconsistent. New pieces in Max Strus and Georges Niang have had their ups and downs as perimeter shooters, to those points, and at times, there’s been a lack of cohesion it’s seemed.

In fairness, injuries to players such as Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland have had some to do with Cleveland’s rocky start. Others like Caris LeVert, Dean Wade and Ty Jerome have missed time as well.

Allen missed the first five games of the campaign, after he did not play in preseason, with his absences because of a bone bruise in his ankle. In Garland’s case, he’s also only appeared in two games thus far due to a hamstring strain, of which he initially sustained in preseason.

Fortunately, both have been in the past two contests, and on Sunday in Cleveland’s win over the Golden State Warriors, both made an impact. As Garland starts to get himself right again, that should help the Cavaliers hit their stride in games and weeks ahead, too.

All of that said, despite the less than stellar start for Cleveland, and the injury ailments, those things don’t diminish what Donovan Mitchell has done early on. He’s been tremendous to begin the campaign.

The Cavs’ bumpy start to this season doesn’t diminish what Mitchell has been doing.

Mitchell has had 32.5 points, 5.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds per outing in the six games he’s played in so far for Cleveland, and his scoring has been on a true shooting rate of 66.9 percent. He’s shot 40.4 percent from three-point range on 9.5 attempts per contest.

Mitchell is currently tied with Joel Embiid for the league lead in scoring with that aforementioned 32.5 points per contest, and while the injuries for Cleveland have played into Mitchell’s splits being increased a bit, he’s still been outstanding.

Mitchell’s deep shooting and pull-up play has often gotten him going, and off of that, his drives have often been on-point, and have either led to baskets for him, free throws or to spray-outs to shooters. Those plays from Mitchell should also become more effective as Garland settles back into the fold.

To drive it home, although the Cavaliers have had far from an ideal start to the 2023-24 season, what Mitchell has been doing thus far shouldn’t be taken for granted. He’s had 25-plus points in each of his six appearances, and has 30-plus points in four of those, including each of Cleveland’s past three games.

Mitchell has started out the season on a big-time heater, and while his splits might decline a bit as the Cavs get healthier, he should be able to find ways to get easier looks as Garland gets re-acclimated. With the Cavaliers emphasizing man and ball movement this season, that can benefit Mitchell as well, even with him being such a crucial on-ball player.

Last but not least, regarding Mitchell’s start, while the Cavaliers have had ups and downs early on defensively, with injuries partly factoring into that, it has been encouraging to watch Mitchell’s commitment level there. At times he can have trouble in difficult matchups, however, he has been pretty solid on-ball, and Mitchell’s ball pressure, and multiple-effort plays as a rotator have helped the Cavs be more disruptive in passing lanes.

Mitchell is currently third in the NBA in steals per game at 2.3, and he’s second in deflections per contest at 4.2, per’s hustle data. Mitchell has been caught gambling a bit here and there, but by and large, the Cavaliers have benefited from his anticipation as an off-ball defender, and he’s often been able to cash in when generating live-ball turnovers. Mitchell is leading the league in fastbreak points per contest thus far at 7.3.

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Mitchell has had a hell of a start to his second season with the Cavs, and though it’s really early in the campaign, and Cleveland has to shore some things up, Mitchell seems destined to make All-NBA once again. He made his first All-NBA squad last season, with All-NBA Second Team honors; maybe this next go-around, he’ll have a compelling All-NBA First Team case.