Cavaliers forward drops encouraging perspective on Donovan Mitchell's future

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers
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While the outside noise keeps arguing that Donovan Mitchell wants to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers as soon as possible, his long-time teammate Georges Niang recently offered a different point of view.

After Evan Mobley and Darius Garland were sidelined for more than a month in December, it seemed that Cleveland's season was already over. With the trade deadline approaching in early February, commentators and onlookers suggested that Donovan Mitchell would emerge as the top trade target at the deadline if the Cavs fell apart. Instead, the Cavs raced to the second seed in the Eastern Conference and stayed silent at the trade buzzer.

Since joining the Cavaliers, Niang has been one of the most vocal leaders of the team both on and off the court. The veteran forward is not afraid to speak his mind, regardless of what the national narrative would suggest. In a recent interview with Ryen Russillo of The Ringer, Niang sounded off about Mitchell's possible future in Cleveland.

""I don't like to speak on other people's futures, but from the vibes I get around here and from the time I was with him in Utah... I would lean toward [Donovan Mitchell] being a Cavalier for a long time.""

Georges Niang

Niang continued to mention that he does not speak for Mitchell and cannot predict what he will do, but he believes that Mitchell is more than happy in wine and gold. He said that it seems that Mitchell enjoys the organization and culture, viewing the Cavaliers a team where he can grow for his future. Niang recalled a phone conversation with Mitchell when Niang signed with Cleveland. Mitchell reportedly told Niang he believes they can win with the Cavs and build something special.

Russillo commented that the noise might just be speculation that keeps getting repeated and revolved around the same groups of analysts. Niang then joked that if Mitchell leaves, he'll pull a Michael Jordan and play baseball.

Georges Niang and Donovan Mitchell go way back

While Niang cannot predict the future or speak for Donovan Mitchell himself, the two players have a long history together in the NBA. In the same summer that Spida was drafted to the Utah Jazz, Niang was traded from the Indiana Pacers to Salt Lake City, as well.

At the time, the Minivan (or G-Wagon in Cleveland) had to fight to keep his spot in the Association. He only averaged 3.6 minutes over 9 games that year, but he and Mitchell developed a strong bond over the next four seasons. By the time Utah traded Niang to the Philadelphia 76ers for Rudy Gay, Niang broke into the Jazz's rotation, playing 16 minutes per game and shooting 42.5 percent from deep in the 2021-22 season.

Niang and Mitchell reached the playoffs every season together, but Niang only appeared in three runs. During those three runs, the sharpshooting veteran averaged five points with a 34.7 percent three-point shot. When the Cavaliers searched for veteran presence and leadership this past offseason, they reunited the two Jazz teammates and gave Niang a three-year contract.

In their first season with Cleveland, the Cavaliers hold the third-best record in the Eastern Conference with 12 games left before the playoffs begin. Niang is the only member of the club to be available for every game this season amid a season decimated by repeated and exhausting injuries. He is setting career highs in points (9.3) and rebounds (3.6) per game. Niang is not the Cavaliers' go-to guy every night, but his game-to-game leadership and attitude have lifted Cleveland in his first year.

If there is anybody who can understand what Donovan Mitchell might be thinking for his next contract, it's Georges Niang. If the Cavaliers can keep Mitchell and strike a deal this summer, Cleveland will have a much better chance at becoming a true powerhouse in the East next season. They have steadily improved internally over time, and their young core is only going to get better. Changes might still need to be made, but Cleveland is undoubtedly on the right path.

The Cavaliers still have a lot of work to do to surround Mitchell with a true contender. Whether they find another star in the offseason or another route, Cleveland needs to give Mitchell a reason to stay. This postseason will be the first test of the Cavaliers' fortitude after their quick exit last year. They have already proven numerous doubts and misconceptions wrong, but the real work has just started.

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