The new intense debate among Cleveland Cavaliers fans online revolves around the compared legacies of Donovan Mitchell and 2016 Champion Kyrie Irving.
Drafted by the Cavs first overall in 2013, Irving spent six season in Cleveland before requesting a trade to have an opportunity to be the primary leader on a contender. Various teams entered a bidding war for the All-Star point guard, but most offers fell apart. Ahead of the 2017/18 season, Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics for a package including Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft pick that ended up being Collin Sexton.
Mitchell joined the Cavaliers in September 2022 via a blockbuster trade from the Utah Jazz. The Cavs sent the aforementioned Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji and a wealth of draft capital in return. Since dawning the Wine and Gold, Mitchell has made two consecutive All-Star teams and is in conversations for a second All-NBA selection.
Both superstars have blessed the city with some of their best basketball and both are possibly worth a "Ring of Honor" designation once their careers are done. With enough time, both Mitchell and Irving could see their jerseys retired in the rafters. Each star has a compelling case over the other, but has Mitchell's two-year tenure as the go-to guy in Cleveland already overthrown Irving's six years?
The Case for Donovan Mitchell
In all fairness, the case for Spida is still ongoing. It is only his second second with the Wine and Gold. In his two seasons, Donovan has averaged 28.2 points per game, 5.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds. Mitchell is the primary option offensively during his short Cavaliers career so far and has led the team to their first 50-win season since LeBron left for Los Angeles.
Kyrie had the pleasure of playing his last three Cavs seasons with Lebron James; thus, Kyrie was the second option during Lebron's second stint with Cleveland. A more reasonable comparison would be juxtaposing Kyrie's years as the number-one option with Spida's.
In his first three seasons, Kyrie made two All-Star appearances and won the Rookie of the Year for a very underwhelming Cavalier team. As the number-one option, Irving averaged 20.7 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds.
Before Lebron came back to Cleveland, Kyrie never won more than 33 games in a season. Now, Donovan came to the Cavs last season as a more established superstar playing his first five seasons in Utah. Also, Mitchell was joining a team on the rise. In 2021/22, the Cavaliers had won 44 games and were just a superstar away from being a contender. To lead a team with expectations is a whole lot more difficult than what the young Irving faced on a rebuilding Cavs team, especially in today's NBA.
The level of play in today's NBA is outstanding. The scoring average per team is up to an all-time high 115 points per game. Also, big men are not only supposed to protect the rim and rebound but also shoot threes and guard on the perimeter. To stand out in today's game is beyond difficult. Donovan established himself quickly, earning All-NBA Second Team honors in his first season in Cleveland. Kyrie, on the other hand, didn't get All-NBA until Lebron showed up in the 2014/15 season.
Since the each player's years as number one were in vastly different times in their careers, the one major difference between the two has been their playoff success.