With the Cleveland Cavaliers having long been without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, others have had to step up, such as Isaac Okoro, Sam Merrill, Dean Wade and Georges Niang. Coinciding with the role players' efforts, though, Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen have been consistently and amazingly on-point.
Mobley did return from injury on Monday in Cleveland's win over the LA Clippers, but what Cleveland has done in his and Garland's absence was massive for their season outlook, and as was previously alluded to, Mitchell has been terrific in leading the way.
Mitchell was named All-NBA for the first last season, and he was named an All-Star starter for the Eastern Conference in his first year with Cleveland, and should be in line for another All-Star appearance. Mitchell will not be an All-Star starter this go-round, however, and he was not thrilled about that. He expressed to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com how you "always" want to be an All-Star starter, but he at least thinks he'll make it as a reserve.
Regardless of the lack of All-Star starting nod, Mitchell has been playing outstanding ball, and continues to lead this Cavs group.
As was aforementioned, this Cavaliers team has gotten contributions from a number of role players in this elongated stretch where Garland and Mobley haven't been involved, and that's been huge. Even still, Mitchell's efforts shouldn't be discounted over this stretch, either.
On the season, Mitchell's had 27.7 points, and career-highs with 6.3 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per contest, and what he's done defensively and his playmaking on both ends of the floor has been crucial for Cleveland. His all-around play has been setting the tone, and that should hold true from here.
In Mitchell's last 13 games, he's averaged 27.8 points, 7.7 assists and 5.2 rebounds; he's been such a driving force for this surging Wine and Gold squad. He's been getting downhill, leading to looks for himself or kickout feeds to shooters, and Mitchell's chemistry with Jarrett Allen has gotten better and better.
Obviously with Garland being sidelined Mitchell has been more of an initiator for others, but even with that being the case recently, Cleveland's movement has been great, and in his minutes, Mitchell's play has often helped spur on productive movement. That's meshed well with the Cavs' revamped, three-point centric offense, and additionally, Mitchell's driving gravity, paint pressure and shot-making has made a difference in opening up Allen and other guys, such as Max Strus and Merrill.
Granted, while Mobley is going to take some games to regain his footing after coming back from knee surgery, and when Garland returns from his jaw injury, the Cavaliers will have to recalibrate things in their offense. However, Cleveland has to find ways to ensure those guys being back doesn't hinder others, and that the Cavaliers can still balance getting those players in their rhythm and, at the same time, maintaining the great offensive flow the team has had for a considerable stretch of games with them out. That's despite the talent level of both.
To drive the point home, though, how Mitchell has played for Cleveland, both offensively and defensively, and the total commitment on both ends he's shown, has been outstanding for the Cavs. His efforts have energized this group, and at the same time, his unselfishness has factored into getting guys like Merrill, Okoro and Allen really getting going.
Now, regardless of the reaction to Mitchell not being an All-Star Starter, what he's done for Cleveland and how he's helped rally this group has been so fulfilling to watch.
Of course, he wasn't thrilled about the All-Star First Five results, which will serve as an added motivator, but he should certainly land another All-Star appearance.